Uruguay 1, Saudi Arabia 0
Group A, Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
Expectations for this match were low, and it lived up (or down) to them, with one announcer best describing the play as “sleepy.”
But that matters not, because a first-half goal by Luis Suarez held up, lifting Uruguay to a 1-0 victory and the round of 16. The victory for Uruguay marks the first time it has won its first two World Cup matches since 1954. Next up is a match Monday against Russia, for first place in Group A. Saudi Arabia was eliminated with the loss.
Saudi Arabia was surprisingly more disciplined than it was in its disastrous opener against Russia and controlled the ball better, forcing Uruguay to drop deeper than most expected. For its part, Uruguay looked sluggish at times but still managed to take a lead into halftime thanks to a goaltending blunder by the Saudis. That was all Uruguay needed.
Uruguay: vs. Russia in Samara, June 25, 10 a.m.
Saudi Arabia: vs. Egypt in Volgograd, June 25, 10 a.m.
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In his 100th appearance with the team, Suarez notched his sixth World Cup goal for Uruguay, this one coming in the 23rd minute.
Goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais swiped at the ball and, when he missed, it went to Suarez. The striker found the empty net on a tap-in at the corner, his 52nd goal for the national team.
Saudi Arabia misses a chance
It’s a warm, muggy day and, after barely touching the ball in the first two minutes, Saudi Arabia got a chance on a free kick just outside of Uruguay’s penalty area.
Mohammed Al-Breik’s attempt was headed off by a Uruguay player in the middle of the line.
Almost 17 minutes into the match, Saudi Arabia has a slight possession edge, a decided improvement in disciplined play over its previous game.
This, really, isn’t what Saudi Arabia needed. After giving up five goals in its loss to Russia, the lowest-ranked World Cup team, next up for the Saudis is Uruguay, a South American power with stars Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. And, as if that weren’t enough, Uruguay figures to be testy after squeaking past Egypt, 1-0, on a late goal, after Suarez missed on three chances.
There is a bright spot, though. The second-lowest ranked World Cup team, Saudi Arabia has never lost to Uruguay, winning a friendly in 2002 and playing to a draw in a 2014 friendly.
“We need to keep a cool head,” defender Jose Gimenez, who scored in the 89th minute against Egypt, told reporters (via Reuters). “We know that any game here is very hard, and we need to think of it that way.”
Suarez, who was barred from the 2014 tournament for biting an opponent and was roundly ripped for drawing a red card in a victory in 2010, is making his 100th appearance for Uruguay. A win would put Uruguay in the next round; a loss would eliminate Saudi Arabia.
A scary trip
For Saudi Arabia, merely getting to Rostov-on-Don was problematic: Its plane landed safely after a terrifying incident in which one of the engines caught fire Monday night. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation tweeted a statement, saying it “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”
Uruguay (1-0-0, 3 points)
- Last World Cup showing: Round of 16, 2014.
- Best finish: Champion, 1930 and 1950.
- Notable: Uruguay hopes to reach the knockout round for the third straight time. It finished in fourth place eight years ago in South Africa.
- FIFA world ranking: 14.
- ELO world ranking: 11.
Saudi Arabia (0-0-1, 0 points)
- Last World Cup showing: Group stage, 2006.
- Best finish: Round of 16, 1994.
- Notable: In three World Cup appearances since making the knockout round in its 1994 World Cup debut, Saudi Arabia has failed to win a game and has finished 28th, 32nd and 28th. That ugly trend continued with a 5-0 loss to Russia in the opener; the Green Falcons have been outscored, 31-4, over that span.
- FIFA world ranking: 67.
- ELO world ranking: 68.
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