Uruguay flatter to deceive again as they edge past Saudi Arabia 1-0 at the World Cup

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Uruguay booked their place in the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup with a stoic and workmanlike 1-0 victory over resurgent Saudi Arabia.

Luis Suarez, so ineffective as La Celeste scraped a late 1-0 win in their opener against Egypt, leapt into life at the Rostov Arena, converting Carlos Sanchez’s first-half corner into an empty net after Mohammed Al Owais came for the cross through a crowd of bodies and soon regretted his decision.

Much like in their opening game it was a tense affair against a vastly improved Saudi side, who huffed and puffed but simply didn’t have the quality required to equalise and keep their hopes of progression alive.

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Player ratings as Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin the bedrocks of a stoic Uruguay win over Saudi Arabia

Matt Jones 20/06/2018
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Uruguay booked their place in the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup with a stoic and workmanlike 1-0 victory over resurgent Saudi Arabia.

Luis Suarez, so ineffective as La Celeste scraped a late 1-0 win in their opener against Egypt, leapt into life at the Rostov Arena, converting Carlos Sanchez’s first-half corner into an empty net after Mohammed Al Owais came for the cross through a crowd of bodies and soon regretted his decision.

Much like in their opening game it was a tense affair against a vastly improved Saudi side, who huffed and puffed but simply didn’t have the quality required to equalise and keep their hopes of progression alive.

Here, we rate the Uruguay players:

URUGUAY (4-4-2)

Fernando Muslera – 6:

Though Saudi Arabia asked plenty of questions of the Uruguay defence, none were directed at their veteran custodian, who had a very easy afternoon.

Guillermo Varela – 4:

Regularly caught out as an improved Saudi showed up. Had difficulty dealing with the marauding Al Shahrani.

Jose Gimenez – 8:

What better mentor to learn under than Diego Godin? Completed 100 per cent of his 33 passes in the first half.

Diego Godin – 8:

A typical performance from the battle-hardened veteran. Gnawed at Saudi’s attackers and also carried a threat in the attacking third.

Martin Caceres – 6:

Has spent the latter part of his career mainly broken. But held a rigid Uruguay back four together while opposite full-back Varela floundered.

Carlos Sanchez – 7:

A relentless worker who was always on offer down the right for La Celeste. Provided the assist for Suarez’s opener. Wastfully headed Cavani’s perfect cross over.

Matias Vecino – 6:

A true talent but struggled to really assert himself on proceedings. Subbed off with an hour gone as Tabarez shuffed his pack.

Rodrigo Bentancur – 6:

Had the most touches of any Uruguay player on the pitch as he continually looked to get attacking team-mates into prime positions.

Cristian Rodriguez – 6:

The wily veteran was alert defensively, with two interceptions, and energetic, but pass completion off 55 per cent was woeful. Dispossessed twice.

Luis Suarez – 7:

Ineffectual in the Egypt win, he was back to scoring ways, also dragging the Saudi defence this way and that. First Uruguayan to score at three World Cups and netted the crucial goal on his 100th cap.

Edinson Cavani – 7:

Balooned an early chance horribly over. Didn’t have much of a sniff of goal after that but held the ball up brilliantly and worked like a dog.

SUBS:

Diego Laxalt – 6:

Finding his way in at international level. Was neat and tidy.

Lucas Torreira – 7:

The Arsenal target’s soon to be club boss Unai Emery will be buoyed by the most interceptions of any Uruguayan (three) despite being on the field just 31 minutes.

Nahitan Nandez N/A

A late introduction, precious little time to make an impact.

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Marcelo reliance and Neymar knock key tactical points ahead of Brazil v Costa Rica

Chris Bailey 20/06/2018
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Brazil’s Samba beat was out of rhythm in their opening draw against Switzerland – cranking up that pressure just a touch more for a side desperate to erase memories of a World Cup horror show in their own house four years ago.

Neymar is still searching for fitness and form ahead of their clash with Group E underdogs Costa Rica in St Petersburg (Friday, 16:00).

As Los Ticos showed during their narrow defeat against Serbia, the spirit that saw them reach the quarter-finals in 2014 is still very much alive.

Below, we select three key tactical points to take a particular interest in on Friday.

LEFT IN THE WILDERNESS

Brazil

Brazil’s draw with Switzerland exposed a problem that is more often than not masked by the brilliance of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Marcelo – the imbalance between the left and right-hand side of attack.

Marcelo took an incredible 109 touches against the Swiss, 19 clear of second-best Philippe Coutinho. The Real Madrid star is more of a wide forward than wing-back but even still, most touchline-huggers see nowhere near that much of the ball.

Brazil force-feed him on that flank in hope of an overload with Neymar while Coutinho threads the needle a touch behind. Wily veterans Stephan Lichtsteiner and Valon Behrami delivered fine flair-stopping displays but in truth they had to do little guesswork.

On the other side, the loss of Dani Alves is acutely felt as Danilo offers little to nothing from right-back and Willian has no complement for his often direct running.

Though a box-to-box Paulinho sits further back to accommodate Marcelo and Co’s tendencies, against an ultra-defensive Costa Rica, Tite should let him loose and bulk up those options on the right.

TWO STRIKES, JESUS IS OUT?

Gabriel Jesus of Brazil

This publication issued a warning to Gabriel Jesus ahead of the opener and the Canarinha collar will feel that little tighter around his neck heading into this one.

The Manchester City starlet was sloppy in possession with poor touches and completed just 60 per cent of his passes, which is less than ideal for a player who nominally plays central but roams the channels too.

Roberto Firmino, not exactly a lightbulb off the bench, nevertheless turned up the brightness a touch. The Liverpool striker didn’t give the ball away in his 25 minutes and managed two shots compared to Jesus’ solitary effort.

Firmino’s forte is bringing others into play and Tite will be considering a swifter introduction on Friday. If there’s one more bum note from Jesus, he could face the music.

NO LET UP ON NEYMAR

Neymar

Los Ticos centre midfielders Celso Borges and David Guzman will have took notes from Behrami the bruiser’s display against the Selecao and more specifically Neymar.

Still tireless off the ball despite his 34 years, the Udinese man took calculated risks in dealing with Neymar and friends. Honest tackles (five) were mixed in with blatant fouls (four) before Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic decided a yellow-carded Behrami could call it a job well done in the 70th minute.

Borges and Guzman also dispensed some rough justice in defeat to Serbia – particularly the latter who racked up four in the tackle column and also drew the referee’s whistle four times.

Neymar is still not up to full speed while Switzerland also dealt him an ankle knock. Costa Rica shouldn’t just think of it as roughing him up, though – the more frustrated the PSG star gets, the more tunnel vision is a problem as he simply tries to do too much.

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