Luis Suarez Sends Uruguay to World Cup Round of 16 with Win vs. Saudi Arabia

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2018

Uruguay's Luis Suarez , left, is greeted by teammates after scoring his team's opening goal during the group A match against Saudi Arabia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

Uruguay bagged their second win of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Wednesday, beating Saudi Arabia. The result means Group A has already been decided, with La Celeste and hosts Russia qualifying for the next round.

Luis Suarez scored the lone goal in the first half, capitalising on a horrible mistake from goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.   

La Celeste and Russia will battle it out for the top spot in Group A, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt will try to avoid last place in their final outing. Both matches will be played on Monday.

Here are the main takeaways from Wednesday's Group A match.


Cavani is Uruguay's Key Star, Not Suarez

For the second match in a row, Uruguay struggled to get going, as their lack of quality out wide limited the team in possession.

Their best moments came in transition, where La Celeste will hope to do most of their damage against the top teams in the knockout stages. With more space, there should be more opportunities for their wonderful counter-attacks.

Suarez may have bagged the opening goal against Saudi Arabia, but as shared by sportswriter Karl Matchett, it wasn't the hardest chance he ever had to take:

Apart from that easy finish, the Barcelona man got little right, while Edinson Cavani was far more dynamic in transition. The Paris Saint-Germain ace is simply a better fit in such a system, and his movement is what creates space for Suarez to find his chances.

If Uruguay are to find any success in the knockout stages, it will be because of Cavani, not Suarez.


Celeste Need Lucas Torreira Against Russia

Uruguay's complete lack of movement was a huge reason behind their sluggish performance, and in part, tactics were to blame. In possession, both Cavani and Suarez took up a spot near the opposing box, with Rodrigo Bentancur and Matias Vecino operating behind them in a central role.

The full-backs and wingers didn't work to create space, however, and both Bentancur and Vecino aren't known for killer passes that can break up a defence. It led to a lot of empty ball movement and little action of note.

Torreira came off the bench to provide a spark, as the 22-year-old is far more adventurous with his passing. His defensive range would be welcome against Russia, where Aleksandr Golovin is expected to run the show again, but his passing and creativity will be just as important.


Saudi's Poor Showing No Reason To Limit World Cup Field to 32 Nations

It's popular to bash FIFA's decision to expand the World Cup field to 48 teams in 2026, especially in light of the dreadful performances some of the smaller nations have served up so far this year.

Saudi Arabia's showings have been among the worst, although it's worth noting mighty Uruguay scored just once on Wednesday.

But even if they had bagged five, it still wouldn't be an argument against more teams. For one, the World Cup is about more than crowning a winner―it's about giving smaller nations and entire regions of football the chance to watch their players take on some of the best in the world.

The stage also provides players with the chance to show what they've got and perhaps even earn a transfer move they otherwise could have only dreamed of.

Abdullah Otayf was such a standout on Wednesday, and for all we know, it could result in a lucrative transfer this summer:

Everyone complained about the expanded field for the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, until Iceland knocked out England as part of a magical Cinderella run. And every edition, one of those supposed minnows provides a moment of magic that goes down as one of the best stories of the entire tournament―think of Costa Rica's run in 2014, or South Korea's improbable semi-final appearance in 2002.

Yes, 48 teams will probably lead to more bad football. But it will also increase the game's global reach, ensure there are even fewer top teams who miss out and, above all, it will lead to more football.


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