Diego Alonso doesn’t place much importance on ball possession, but although he likes to dominate and impose conditions on his rival, in attack his only scheme is… variation! He plays direct and strikes up front through direct passes and high dynamic moves. In his first five games as coach of Uruguay Diego Alonso presented a very vertical way of playing. The standout players so far have been Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur.
Uruguay have had moments of both dominance and retreat in their matches so far, which has sometimes been determined by the result and sometimes by the play of their rivals. Alonso is a coach who believes in the variability of building attacks. It’s a concept he applies very well to his system of play whether it’s 1-4-4-2 or, as recently, 1-4-2-3-1, with some surprise at the display of Ronaldo Araujo in the right-back position. He also does not hesitate to change his formation during the match depending on the situation on the pitch (recently 1-5-3-2 and against Chile even 1-4-3-3).
The midfield play is based on Bentancur and Valverde. Their offensive actions are one of the key elements of Uruguay’s game. You can see Alonso’s intentions to create an advantage at the back with starting structures that allow them to stretch the opposition and play between the lines, but ball possession is not their method of proceeding. Indeed there are moments when Uruguay retreat to the low block and try to exploit the free space behind the line of a high-pressing rival thanks to the speed of their players. One of the players who provides speed and good one-on-one play then is Facundo Pellistri.
Alonso likes to overload on the wings directing up to four or five players who cross to gain space only to finish the action with a cross into the penalty area. This is another characteristic of their attacking play – a large number of crosses. Uruguay always keep one or more players (Cavani, Suarez) in the rivals’ penalty who are the recipients of these crosses.
Another pattern of play is to use a false or inverted winger on one of the flanks just to stretch the opponent’s formation and create more space in the center, after which they immediately abandon their possession on the wing and switch to playing through the center or diagonally straight into the opponent’s box.
Defensively Uruguay’s target in every match is to receive the ball as quickly as possible using medium and high pressing. The idea is to take control of the ball as fast as possible. This is how Alonso understands the concept of dominating an opponent. In favourable conditions they can press high on the rivals’ defenders around their penalty area with up to four of their players. In a medium block they press aggressively and decisively as soon as the ball is lost, preventing counter-attacks. They then use the presence of Araujo as a defender to form a line of three defenders and thus free the left wing-back (Vina) for a higher pressing game.