KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Oscar Washington Tabarez is respectfully addressed, even by his own Uruguayan journalists, as: ‘Professor.’
The 66-year-old graduated to manager of one of the world’s greatest – and smallest – football nations via graduation courses at 10 clubs in five countries including Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Italy’s Milan.
Tabarez regretted Uruguay’s 2-1 defeat by Brazil in Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semi-final. His disappointment stemmed not only to the fact but to the manner: a marking mistake at a corner freed Paulinho to head the hosts’ late winner.
Up until that point Tabarez felt his tactics to defy Brazil had worked to perfection. His exposition also offered Spain a professorial lesson in how to beat Brazil in Sunday’s final in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
He said: “We analysed Brazil very carefully and in their previous matches they were overwhelming. In their game against Italy they hardly let the Italians out of their own half, pushing many people forward in attack including the fullbacks.
“Against us, however, they could not do that because right from the start he pressed them high up the pitch to make it difficult for then. The pressure we also put on their central midfielders was important.
“Also we had to be very careful in not dwelling on the ball too long in our own half because Brazil try to recover it immediately they lose it so we had to move the ball forward quickly. We were better at this in the first half than in the second, unfortunately.
“Still I am very proud of what my players have done at this Cup.”
That said, Tabarez acknowledges the imposing manner in which Luiz Felipe Scolari has turned Brazil around.
Tabarez said: “Even though their coach took over not long ago his team are taking shape and heading in the right direction. It’s not enough to say yet that Brazil have been rekindled or have re-emerged.
“For example, against us they had a lot of difficulty in playing against a small country. But Brazil is a country of great players and fine young players and so it will be fascinating to see what happens next – and in the World Cup, where they will be put to a huge test.”
Uruguay have yet to qualify but Tabarez is confident his team have regained their cohesion just in time for the decisive closing stage of the World Cup qualifying competition.
He is also looking forward immensely to watching Sunday’s final on television since the Celeste will have wrapped up their own campaign several hours earlier in the third-place play-off against Italy in Salvador.
He explained: “Spain are the team of the decade. Since 2008 they’ve been doing very important things and are linked to the reality of Barcelona with their possession of the ball which can reach an unbelievable level.
“They know each other very well but Brazil mark up well, they have determination in attack and work well defensively so I will be most intrigued to see that match.
“It will be beautiful to see a final between a host team who have won all their matches and been playing very well against the team who have won all the main competitions in the last few years.
“It will be a great contribution to the history of football.”
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