- Uruguay defensive midfielder Nicolas Acevedo likes to get forward
- He opened the scoring against Honduras
- Acevedo: “We’re here to get as far as we can”
In theory, Nicolas Acevedo’s role in the Uruguay midfield is to win the ball and make life difficult for the opposition, ensuring that they do not make progress towards the penalty area. This suits him well because, although he does not actually play in the back line, he has performed as a centre-back for the majority of his life.
At Poland 2019 though, La Celeste’s attacks have often revolved around him. A born organiser, he is capable of delivering dangerous balls that catch defences off guard, and as if all these attributes were not enough, he boasts a reputation for scoring from powerful free-kicks that belie his diminutive stature.
“I’ve always played as a defender, but I also feel very comfortable in my current position,” Acevedo told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “I do what the coach asks me, and try to help out when we attack. I also try to bring the ball out from the back and keep it on the ground.”
In truth, this is not just down to his own particular skillset, but rather it stems from Uruguay’s search for a fresh playing style. For many years, the team were characterised by their strength, dedication and hard work; in other words, the famous garra charrúa (Uruguayan fighting spirit). Now, however, they have been looking at other ways to achieve their goals.
“It’s something we’ve been working on,” he explained. “Now the idea is to always try and play, to look for the pass, to drop back to collect the ball. Now we’re pretty comfortable when we have the ball in our possession.”
This new approach proved essential on Monday, when the Uruguayans came up against stubborn opponents in the shape of a Honduras side in desperate need of three points and ready to dig deep for 90 minutes. The breakthrough came in the 41st minute, when a free-kick into the box was knocked down to Acevedo, who finished with aplomb.
"Although it might seem like I practise that kind of thing in training, I simply position myself where I’m supposed to be and wait to take advantage of any opportunities that come my way,” said the midfield man. “Luckily, one did come my way today, and I was able to open the scoring.”
Despite the fact that the Uruguayans have now qualified for the Round of 16, Acevedo and Los Charrúas will be unlikely to take their foot off the pedal in their final match versus New Zealand, given that top spot in Group C is now at stake.
“New Zealand will be tough opponents,” he said. “They have a similar style of play to Norway, who we played first – they tend to defend as a team. And so we’ll take the same approach as before. We’re here to get as far as we can. We’ve secured a place in the next round, and now we’ve got this winner-takes-all match to look forward to. Then we'll see where our destiny takes us.”