Rostov-On-Don, Russia (June 20, 2018) — Luis Suarez found paydirt in his 100th appearance with the Uruguayan national team. In so doing, he helped lock up a spot in the round of 16 for both his nation and that of the hosts.
Suarez’s first-half goal, his 52nd for his country, was all Uruguay needed in its second-straight 1-0 victory, this time over Saudi Arabia. The result wraps up Group A with both La Celeste and Russia clinching a spot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup round of 16. It marks the first time since 1954 that Uruguay has won its first two matches at the tournament.
Luis Suarez Goal Helps Uruguay and Russia Clinch Spots in World Cup Round of 16
The two managers made a few modifications to the starting XI from their opening match. Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez slotted in Cristian Rodriguez and Carlos Sanchez into the midfield of his 4-4-2 formation in place of Nahitan Nandez and Giorgian De Arrascaeta. Meanwhile, the Saudis under Chilean manager Juan Antonio Pizzi started four players who began their 5-0 defeat to Russia on the bench.
One of those changes for Saudi Arabia was in goal. Mohammed Al-Owais replaced Abdullah Al-Mayouf which perhaps didn’t come as a surprise given the scoreline of their opener. But the 26-year-old, making his seventh appearance with the Green Falcons, spoiled a promising start for his team.
The Saudis, resolutely trying to put the memories of last Thursday’s game behind them, took the game to Uruguay from the start. Over the opening 20 minutes of the first half, they actually out-possessed their opponent. But La Celeste earned a corner in the 23rd minute and pounced on Al-Owais’ error. After he misjudged the flight of the ball coming off his line, it came to Suarez who calmly redirected it into an open net for his first goal of the tournament.
Luis Suarez taps it home!
The ball lands at his feet on the corner and he taps it home to give Uruguay a 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/gsBC1qFq5Y
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 20, 2018
Sanchez certainly made the most of his first start. The 33-year-old, earning his 37th cap for Uruguay, assisted on Suarez’s tally with a well-flighted service from the corner flag. It marked his second helper via a set piece in the tournament. After coming on early in the second half against Egypt, his service off a free kick found Jose Gimenez who broke a 0-0 tie in the 89th minute with a decisive header.
In the second half, Sanchez had a legitimate chance to cement himself as the player of the tournament for his side. 16 minutes in, Edinson Cavani whipped in an inch-perfect cross that found him right in front of the six-yard box. But his resulting header was wayward and nowhere near goal.
Sanchez eventually came off in the 82nd minute. And it was the man he replaced in Uruguay’s win over Egypt in Nandez who came in for him. But in the 114 minutes that he’s played thus far, Sanchez’s set-piece quality has been a noticeable hallmark of his side’s fortunes. On Wednesday, it precipitated Suarez’s fourth World Cup goal.
With the shutout, Uruguay remains in the midst of an extended streak of holding their opponent off the scoresheet. That’s fairly apparent when considering they have yet to concede a goal in any of the five matches they’ve played in 2018.
Both sides conclude their group campaigns on Monday, June 25th. Uruguay can still win the group if they triumph over high-flying Russia while both Saudi Arabia and Egypt can only salvage pride. The two matches kick off simultaneously at 10 a.m. ET with La Celeste’s clash with the hosts occurring in Samara and the Green Falcons taking on the Pharaohs in Volgograd.