Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani belatedly join party, plus other Uruguay v Russia talking points

Matt Jones 25/06/2018
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Uruguay scored two goals in the first half of a World Cup game for the first time since 1966 as hosts Russia were beaten 3-0, suffering their first defeat at the tournament.

A resplendent first 45 minutes from La Celeste saw them open up a 2-0 lead, with Luis Suarez’s free-kick and Diego Laxalt’s deflected strike putting them in the driving seat.

Igor Smolnikov’s red card threatened to see the South Americans run away with it, but the hosts stood strong before a late Edinson Cavani goal put gloss on the victory.

Here we take a look at three talking points.

ARE RUSSIA THE REAL DEAL?

Igor Smolnikov (l) was dismissed for a lunge on Diego Laxalt.

Igor Smolnikov (l) was dismissed for a lunge on Diego Laxalt.

Russia are making a mockery of pre-tournament predictions that they could surpass South Africa as the worst performing hosts of a World Cup.

Stanislav Cherchesov’s side came into the tournament as the lowest ranked side in the FIFA rankings, with many already writing them off after a collection of woeful results stretching back to the start of 2017 – just four wins in 16 games.

They ripped up the script on opening night as Saudi Arabia were put to the sword. They backed it up with another swashbuckling performance against Egypt in their second game, a 3-1 win quite unbelievably confirming their presence in the knockout rounds.

But Uruguay was the acid test. And even though the South Americans opened up a 2-0 lead in the first half, the hosts held firm – keeping the Luis Suarez-inspired La Celeste scoreless for much of the second period, despite seeing Igor Smolnikov sent off after just 36 minutes.

No-one expects them to go beyond the last 16 on home soil. But as they dug in and impressed against sterner opposition, they are no longer at risk of exiting as a laughing stock.

SUAREZ AND CAVANI FINALLY JOIN THE PARTY

Suarez (1)

Uruguay edged to two laborious victories in their opening pair of World Cup fixtures, but they finally showed some flair as Russia were put to the sword.

Suarez fired in a fine free-kick to put his side in the ascendancy early on and Cavani poked home from a corner to notch his first goal of the tournament – his strike a milestone for the Paris Saint-Germain front man as he scored for the first time in a Uruguay win at a World Cup.

The pair are now the only two players to score at three separate tournaments for La Celeste – with the industrious Cavani particularly deserving of his goal after grafting in the first three games.

It’s been a slow start from both Uruguay and their two star men, but with both finally firing they will pose a dangerous prospect for any side in the last 16.

LAXALT LEADS LIST OF EXALTED YOUNG LA CELESTE STARS

The dreadlocked Diego Laxalt is congratulated by his teammates.

The dreadlocked Diego Laxalt is congratulated by his teammates.

On a night when goalkeeper Fernando Muslera became the latest member to join Uruguay’s exclusive 100 Club, it was players very much in the embryonic stages of their international careers that were grabbing the headlines.

The cornrowed Laxalt, winning just his eighth cap, was deadly. He fired in – albeit fortuitously – his first La Celeste strike, while lung-bursting runs tempted Russia right-back Smolnikov into a diabolical lunge that earned the Zenit Saint Petersburg player a deserved second yellow.

Elsewhere, Juventus’ Rodrigo Bentancur really should have joined him on the scoresheet, wasting a glorious goalscoring opportunity but further raising his reputation on his third start and 10th cap.

Nahitan Nandez, meanwhile, led his side with three tackles on his 15th outing, while Lucas Torreira’s three interceptions in just his sixth cap also led Uruguay.

All four have a combined age of 90. Six of their colleagues have 100 caps or more (Suarez, Cavani, Cristian Rodriguez, Diego Godin, Maxi Pereira and Muslera).

The future’s bright for the men in sky blue.

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Having booked their places in the round of 16, Croatia will play Iceland in their last Group D game on Tuesday.

Iceland suffered a 2-0 defeat to Nigeria on Friday and therefore need a win against Zlatko Dalic’s side, and the result of Nigeria-Argentina to go their way.

And as they gear up for a crucial encounter, we take a look at head-to-head stats for the two teams, below!

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Egypt player ratings as Mohamed Salah scores and gets a 7 in 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia

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Egypt’s World Cup campaign ended in disappointment as a late strike by Salem Al Dawsari condemned them to a 2-1 defeat on Monday.

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring at the Volgograd Arena in the 22nd minute.

Saudi equalised from the spot through Salman Al Faraj on the stroke of half-time after Essam El Hadary had saved an earlier penalty from Fahad Al Muwallad.

Al Dawsari then scored a dramatic winner deep into stoppage time to ensure his side leaves Russia with three points to show for their efforts.

Here, we rate the performances of the Egyptian players.

STARTING XI

Essam El Hadary – Making history as the oldest player at the World Cup, the 45-year-old capped it with an excellent save from the spot although he couldn’t repeat the feat at the second time of asking. Made a couple of good saves from headers. 8

Ahmed Fathy – Had a tough time dealing on the right side of defence and conceded a penalty. Clumsy with his tackles as well. Eventually picked up a booking. 3

Ali Gabr – Was largely sturdy in defence and made a few clearances. A late tackle led to a booking though. 5

Ahmed Hegazy – Made a couple of vital interventions including a block to deny Salman Faraj’s shot from the edge of the area. Managed more clearances than any other player. 6

Mohamed Shafy – Was decent with his distribution when going long. Switched off a bit at the end as the winner came down his side. 5

Mohamed Elneny – Had one decent effort from range in the second half. Simply recycled possession in midfield and while he made a couple of interceptions, was bypassed with ease several times. 5

Tarek Hamed – Made superb block soon after that penalty save from El Hadary. His direct balls towards the forwards were good but couldn’t get close to the Saudi runners, committing four fouls. 5

Abdallah El Said – Had some good moments on the right flank and had to track back to keep tabs on Yasir Al Shahrani. Intercepted a pass and then played a great long ball to assist Salah for the opener. Replaced at half-time. 6

Mohamed Salah – Not at his sharpest but still the most dangerous player on the pitch. Took his goal well and created a few good chances but his chipped finish went wide when played through a second time. 7

Trezeguet – Should’ve got on the score sheet as he was played in twice by Salah, opting for the more spectacular finish on both occasions. Released the Liverpool star as well once only for him to miss the target. Headed wide in the second half. 6

Marwan Mohsen – A bungling performance up front. Despite winning his share of aerial duels, rarely found a team-mate with his headers. No shots at all and a pass accuracy of 37.5 per cent. 3

SUBS

Amr Warda – Was brought on for El Said at the interval. Had just the one shot and didn’t facilitate the attack like he was meant to. 4

Ramadan Sobhi – Came on for Mohsen in the 63rd minute and couldn’t make an impact. 4

Kahraba – Replaced Trezeguet for the final nine minutes. N/A

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