It is no secret that I was eagerly anticipating Rodrigo Bentancur’s World Cup debut. So much so that I dedicated about 800 words to it earlier this week. If there’s an unofficial Bentancur bandwagon going on these days, I might as well be sitting close to the front.
And now that Bentancur has made said debut, I’ll say this: All aboard!
Bentancur did Bentancur things in Uruguay’s 1-0 win over a Mo Salah-less Egypt on Friday. The 5 a.m. wake-up call might not have been ideal here on the West Coast, but watching Bentancur do what he did was worth all of it. (Because it’s all about me, right?) This was the kind of Bentancur performance that many of us not only thought could happen, but were hoping for simply because the guy is capable of doing those kinds of those in a relatively low-key kind of manner because he’s so cool no matter the situation.
Let me just throw a few numbers your way...
Touches: 104 (team best)
Pass completion: 93.1 percent
Key passes: 1
Total tackles: 2
Rodrigo Bentancur became the player with the most touches (104) and most completed passes (81) of any Uruguay player at the World Cup since 1966.— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) June 15, 2018
Quite impressive for a 20-year-old making his World Cup debut. pic.twitter.com/y9TOLTgUj2
That’ll do just fine, kid. That’ll do.
But here’s the most impressive number out of all of that: The majority of that work, especially his involvement in general, came in the second half. I say that because of the game-high 104 touches Bentancur had, about 40 of those came before halftime. That means that Bentancur touched the ball nearly 70 times in the second half — just an astonishing number that out-of-form Sami Khedira couldn’t even come close to match during the midway point of the 2017-18 Juventus season.
The thing that makes me say that this was one hell of a World Cup debut is the simple all-around aspect of Bentancur’s game against Egypt.
Interceptions — got it.
Passes — got it.
Controlling the pace in the midfield — got it.
Defending — got it.
The mentions on the BWRAO Twitter account were basically saying how Bentancur was a little too conservative with his passing, only going for the easy and low-risk ball rather than driving things forward on a consistent basis. While that was true a point, it’s not like Bentancur was killing each potential attack Uruguay might have had because he didn’t have any desire to go forward.
Essentially, he was in so cool and calm and in total control from start to finish — and that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Bentancur during the short time that he’s been with Juventus.
But this is a chance for the 20-year-old kid to truly shine. He hasn’t gotten a consistent chance to be a key cog in the midfield at the club level just yet. (Although, you gotta think that the time is coming based on what kind of talent he has.) He’s getting that chance on the world’s biggest stage right now.
And, small sample size and all that, it’s gotten pretty well so far.
With their last-minute winner, Uruguay has put itself into position to get into the knockout round in what looks to be a very winnable Group A. That would mean more Bentancur, more awesomeness from Uruguay’s young No. 6 and more chances for us to freak out about what a strong tournament in Russia would mean for his confidence when he comes back to Turin for preseason training.
For now, though, we will wait for Uruguay’s next game — which is on Tuesday against Saudi Arabia, in case you’re wondering — and eat up every single Bentancur compilation video that comes out of the win against Egypt over the next four days. I’m all for it, too — but you probably figured that part out already.