The remaining formalities of the group stage have been dispensed as we now head into the business end of the Confederations Cup 2013. There have been a few exciting clashes so far and many breathtaking goals, but the real contests will be on display in the semifinals as Brazil gear up to face Uruguay at Belo Horizonte. The hosts were flawless in the group stages, winning each of their three games and conceding only two goals to Italy. They were not particularly bright prior to this competition but have looked a cohesive unit here, perhaps due to the energy they derive from the home crowd.
Uruguay, on the other hand, have had a tougher campaign as they were beaten first up by the World Champions Spain. They were starved of possession and apart from the Luis Suarez free-kick, had nothing to take back from that game. They pulled themselves together against Nigeria, deriving motivation from the inspirational Diego Forlan but concerns still remain.
Edinson Cavani has failed to impress in his appearance for La Celeste whereas Luis Suarez, though still at his dangerous best in the attacking-third, is losing possession in critical areas. Uruguay were becoming a force in International football at one stage, making it to the semifinals in 2010 WC but they have gone downhill since. Oscar Tabarez will be hoping that his ageing side can pull through a good performance against the Selecao.
Here is a list of the top five players who can make a difference to the result of the all important semi-final:
The forward was on song against the Italians in the final group fixture and ended the match with a brace. He had a number of opportunities in the game and he gave his 100% to each one of them. A return of two goals is always going to be significant but more than that, it was his involvement in the game that was a positive. He had tended to drift out a little in the previous games as the defenders were able to keep him quiet. His last goal was a gift, a predator’s goal, but he thoroughly deserved the spoils of the night. He will have a key role to play against La Celeste and goals in the bag will give him confidence.
4. Diego Forlan
The veteran celebrated his 100th appearance for Uruguay with a crucial goal against Nigeria. He has been facing some harsh criticism along with manager Oscar Tabarez but he proved his mettle once again. Even in the game against Spain, which was largely a one-sided affair, Uruguay looked in better shape once he was brought on to the park. His energy and commitment on the pitch means that a lot more is being created offensively. He will probably start as a part of the three man forward string but the fluidity of the arrangement allows him to step back and create for the two strikers.
The Chelsea midfielder has had a mixed-bag at this tournament so far. He was in his elements in the first game against Japan but got lost a little against Mexico. The inconsistency is a cause of worry for Luiz Felipe Scolari but he will continue to invest his faith in the young man who is trying to step into the big shoes of the play-maker. He was sloppy on the ball against Italy a number of times, losing possession even as he was trying to initiate a forward move but picked up his game in the second half by providing the imaginative spark that Brazil needed. He needs to be at his best in the next two games for Brazil to have a chance of lifting the Cup.
2. Luis Suarez
The Liverpool striker remains Uruguay’s best bet to spring a surprise against Brazil. He came on late and casually put in two goals against Tahiti and even though it does not say much, since it was Tahiti after all, it does say a bit about his determination and hunger. He will be disappointed with his performance in the tournament so far as he is a player who expects a great deal from himself. The best of oppositions usually bring out the best and the worst out of him. He can either make some magic in the final third of the pitch with his skilful dribbling and one-on-one skill or he can throw an antic, disturbing the balance of the game. Definitely a man to watch out for.
The former Santos striker has been the revelation of this tournament. He has lived up to the expectations so far. After two stunning volleys and an astonishing assist, he continued the exhibition of his diverse skills with a remarkable free-kick against Italy. He was substituted soon after as Scolari tried to save his big weapon for the semifinals. He will be running the channels and threatening with his lightning quick pace. It is difficult to foresee how Uruguay’s ageing legs will be able to cope with his threat.