Uruguay claimed the top spot in Group A with a comfortable 3-0 victory over hosts Russia.
Russia’s remarkable campaign in the group stage has been one of the major wonders in the World Cup so far, but the hosts were brought back down to earth in by Uruguay as they were utterly beaten on Monday.
Uruguay get a comfortable win over Russia to finish on top of Group A! pic.twitter.com/189rFAaigH
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 25, 2018
In a flying start, Uruguay was ahead in the 10th minute as Suarez curled a low free-kick into the bottom-right corner after Yuri Gazinskiy’s dire foul on Rodrigo Bentancur.
Cheryshev looked set to continue his excellent form as Russia responded in force but his own goal increased Russia’s misery in the 23rd minute. Matters were made worse for Russia in the 36th minute, Smolnikov picking up his second booking after lunging in on Cavani, just eight minutes after being yellow carded for a foul on Matias Vecino.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Russia was not hesitant in coming forward following the restart, an encouraging move breaking down when Mario Fernandes failed to tee up Aleksey Miranchuk in the area.
Russia showed greater grit after the interval, with Artem Dzyuba wasting a chance for a consolation, but the damage was already done by the time Cavani got his first goal of the tournament in the 90th minute.
No party for the hosts
This was the first time Russia had faced a strong opposition at this competition, and for many, the fashion of this defeat will mark them out as vulnerable in the next round.
Right from the outset, and even at the end when there was very little hope of a comeback emerging, there was much of the same extraordinary vocal support from the stands. But on the pitch, there was very little of the productivity we saw from Russia’s players in their opening two victories.
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) June 25, 2018
Almost every set-piece was delivered too long, and there were so many key careless passes like Yuri Gazinskiy’s to begin the passage of play that led to Suarez scoring from a free-kick or Mario Fernandes’ when for once early in the second half Uruguay looked like they might be opened up.
Perhaps the fact that Russia, the lowest ranked team here at 70 in the world, started this game having already qualified affected their approach. Possibly it was the oppressive heat. Midfielder Aleksandr Golovin, one of their best performers here so far, was also rested.
What is certain is that now, having finished second, Russia will play their next match at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium against Spain on the 1st of July in the first knockout match of the World Cup.
Uruguay can rely on Suarez
There was very little ambiguity about who would win this game after an early period in which Russia was blown away.
Uruguay finish on top while Russia claim the second spot in Group A. pic.twitter.com/ESfqnuEGlA
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 25, 2018
Suarez seemed set to impress after his weak opening match performance against Egypt, and it was his clever low free-kick that set the tone for what was a very comfortable victory. There was an abundance of noise from the stands – so Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera will have had many calmer games in terms of volume – but he had little work to do as he became his country’s all-time leading appearance maker at the World Cup. At his 14th match at the competition, and on the occasion of his 100th cap, Uruguay simply out-performed Russia, and of course were for much of the game a player better off.
There was ultimately a goal for Cavani right at the finish. For a long time, it looked like it would not come as the Paris St-Germain striker endured a mostly frustrating match. He missed three big chances before eventually, things fell into place as the rebound from an Akinfeev parry landed kindly at his feet.
The Uruguay fans stayed long after the final whistle to cheer their team. For them, it is three wins from three, but their next match will be an extremely more severe test.