Luis Suarez makes history with winner over Saudi Arabia as Uruguay progress
World Cup Group A, Rostov Arena - Uruguay 1 (Suarez 23') Saudi Arabia 0
Luis Suarez's goal, on his hundredth appearance for his country and which made him the first Uruguayan to score in three World Cups, was enough to win a truly horrendous match and see Uruguay into the last 16. They will now play Russia to decide which team tops Group A, with Portugal and probably Spain awaiting in the second phase.
The game started slowly and continued in similar vein throughout, but on 23 minutes, Uruguay won a corner at which Mohammed Alowais flapped, allowing the unfathomably unmarked Suarez to tap home.
Neither side upped the pace in the second half, Uruguay bloodymindedly content to defend their lead and Saudi apparently content to avoid a second hiding. Carlos Sanchez missed a decent chance after Edinson Cavani's run and cross, but otherwise neither side came especially close to scoring, with the Saudis showing little sense of urgency even in the closing stages.
So Uruguay progress to the knockout stages, and the question begs: has any side ever played as badly for a 100 percent record after two games? But one thing is for sure: the Uruguayans will not care.
Uruguayan substance is Uruguayan style. There is something hilariously admirable about Uruguay's refusal to amend their style according to circumstance. Most teams would have looked to set about a side who played so poorly in their first game, but Uruguay played just as they did against Egypt and just as they will against better opposition. They are getting results, and any side that faces them can expect to be dragged out onto the cobbles for a scrap.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Luis Suarez (Uruguay) Real talk, this match was so poor that there oughtn't to be one. But here we are, and in such circumstances we can only go for the scorer of the winning goal. With regret.
Uruguay: Muslera 6, Varela 6, Godin 6, Gimenez 6, Caceres 6, Sanchez 5, Betancur 5, Vecino 5, Rodriguez 5, Cavani 5, Suarez 5. Subs: Laxalt 6, Torreira 5, Nandez 6.
Saudi Arabia: Alowais 4, Alburayk 5, Osama 6, Ali 6, Yasser 6, Otayf 5, Salman 5, Taiseer 5, Hatan 5, Fahad 4, Salem 4. Subs: Hussain 5, Kanno 6, Alsahlawi 6.
Luis Suarez of Uruguay celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia at Rostov Arena on June 20, 2018 in Rostov-on-Don, RussiaGetty Images
12’ - A poor touch from Salem allows Suarez to nick off with the ball on halfway, so Salem hacks him down, avoiding a booking. The resultant free-kick goes short and Bentancur lifts a pass down the line for Caceres, whose low cross is a little behind Cavani, and he lashes over the bar from eight yards.
22’ - Uruguay are coming. Cavani snaps a pass into the path of Rodriguez, nashing down the left, he catches up with it, just, and screws back a cross which forces a corner.
23’ - GOAL! Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia (Suarez) The 100th cap is marked with a goal! Over comes the corner and out comes Alowais for a flap; he gets nowhere near the ball, and Suarez is right there to tap home on the volley. His marker is, well, em, um, I don't know.
Luis SuarezGetty Images
29’ - Chance for Saudi! Salem goes down the left and crosses; in the middle, Godin can't win the header, and with Caceres dreaming, Hatan steals in only to bang the bal over the bar! Uruguay have been warned!
62’ - Uruguay break via quick free-kick from Caceres, but Cavani finds himself alone on the left so waits for support to arrive, then steps inside and curls a lovely cross for Sanchez on the far side of the box ... only for him to send his falling header well over the top.
86’ - Uruguay get it downfield and Cavani picks it up on halfway; with no one in support, he sticks it into space and pegs after it, beating two defenders in the process. Osama then cuts him off ... but slips, allowing Cavani to spin and shoot, but Alowais is out to narrow the angle and block to safety.
79 percent of games at Russia '18 have been decided by one goal or fewer, the highest ratio of any World Cup.
So far there have been eight 1-0 wins, as many as were recorded in the entire group stage of Brazil 2014.