One of the most wonderful things about International tournaments in the summer – as well as being able to binge on football – is that it offers fans the chance to see players playing for their country. After a season, or more, becoming familiar with the traits of Udinese’s right back or Bologna’s defensive midfielder you get to see what they can do for their countries after a few weeks getting to know their team mates.
Some of the brightest starlets in Serie A took to the field in the Group C game between Uruguay and Chile. Despite the draw, suggesting parity all over the field, Edinson Cavani and Mauricio Isla had very different games.
Within the first few minutes of the game kicking off Edinson Cavani had picked the ball up on the Uruguayan right flank. He purred across the pitch, galloping toward the Chilean goal, with the same youthful energy that has captivated the faithful congregation in Naples. That was until Gonzalo Jara launched into a studs up challenge on Cavani, contact was minimal but the Napoli forward twisted his knee in the challenge. At this point Cavani should have begun to suspect it wasn’t going to be his night. Paraguayan referee, Carlos Amarillo, didn’t give Uruguay a free kick and even wandered over to Cavani and told the fallen striker to pick himself off the floor.
It was interesting to see Cavani, and indeed the whole Uruguayan front three, inter change positions throughout the first half. For Cavani this was a vast difference to his appearances for Uruguay at the World Cup where he operated mainly as a wide forward. Oscar Tabarez must have taken note of his first season in Naples, allowing him time in the centre forward area.
A reluctance to track back from the entire Uruguayan front line meant that the seven defensive players were often left to deal with the throng of Chileans flooding forward on the attack. Cavani was visibly uncomfortable with this strategy and appeared to be itching to get stuck in, dropping further than Forlan and Suarez.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, Cavani linked with the other strikers creating a chance for Suarez which the Liverpool player blazed over. This was one of very few involvements and his substitution at half time – for both injury and tactical reasons – meant he left the game with a whimper.
In complete contrast, Chile’s Mauricio Isla had a tremendous game. Even in the first hour where Chile were wasteful in possession and chaotic in defence, Isla continued to probe the Uruguayan defence. The focal point of Isla’s play was his positioning. It could be described either as hugely adventurous or completely indisciplined – whichever it was, it was certainly incredibly entertaining.
Whenever Chile had the ball anywhere near the centre circle, the wing back would depart instantly. Flying, fleet footed, up the wing with tremendous pace, Isla could be seen arriving in the final third in time to accept Alexis Sanchez’s pushed passes or Valdivia’s lofted balls.
All of the space that Isla had been given to move into could be attributed to the attention that Uruguay were focusing on Sanchez. Space that increased further once, Chile boss, Carlos Bianchi threw Valdivia into the midfield – the Uruguayan defence narrowed – and the opposite wing back delivered an assist for Sanchez’s equaliser.
Isla and Cavani are just two of the starlets who ply their trade in Italy currently on secondment in Argentina, numerous others are making their people immensely proud. In fact eight of the players who took part in this match play in Italy. Serie A may not be able to keep up financially with the English Premier League and La Liga, but there are still stars who can dazzle at the highest levels… even if it means Barcelona will commence a long, tortuous, drawn out transfer saga to secure their registration for exorbitant amounts of money.