Home » Football Tips » Uruguay Coast to the Top of Group A with Russia Win

Uruguay Coast to the Top of Group A with Russia Win

Go back to Blog

June 26, 2018
Uruguay beat Russia 3-0 to win group A

Monday was a tale of two groups. Group A was already settled in terms of which teams were going through – Russia and Uruguay – it was simply a matter of who went through as winners. No-one was really surprised that it was Uruguay who prevailed but many were shocked about the dead rubber tie between Egypt and Saudi Arabia as it was the African side who, a Mo Salah goal notwithstanding, lost and so finished their World Cup campaign with no points.

Group B wasn’t as clear-cut, however. Spain were up against a Morocco side who could have counted themselves unfortunate to have been knocked out after two games but out they were, and few expected them to do much to derail Spain. They didn’t read that script, however, and it took the intervention of VAR to make sure that Spain hung onto a draw late on as Iago Aspas’s goal had initially been ruled out for offside. The result means that Spain take on Russia in the Round of 16.

Portugal had the ostensibly trickier tie because Iran were still in with a shout of qualifying and by jingo they very nearly did! VAR was overly prominent, especially in the second half and its performance will add fuel to the fire of those who think it an abomination. An elbow by Ronaldo was looked at and it seemed like there could only be two outcomes – nothing or a red card. As it turns out, there was a third way and a yellow was issued.

Late on when demanding a penalty, it seemed as if Iran effectively downed tools until VAR was consulted. After an age, the referee went to consult the screen and on his return he pointed to the spot and the penalty was duly converted. They came inches from topping the group minutes later but, in the end, Iran went the way of Morocco and Portugal hung on. Next up for Ronaldo and the boys is Uruguay. That, we can confidently predict, will not be a pretty game.

Uruguay 3-0 Russia

With both teams safely through to the Round of 16, the managers rang the changes. With their imminent future confirmed, was their any chance that we could expect a decent match, especially given the paucity of Uruguay’s performances to date? It turns out that we could at the beginning of the half, at least. With nine minutes on the clock, Uruguay were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the 18-yard line, which looked as if it were too close to lift up and over the wall. Luis Suarez seemingly thought so and dispatched the resultant free hard and low into the bottom corner, with the Russian ‘keeper caught flat-footed.

Russia hit back and nearly scored a goal through Denis Cheryshev but it was on his weaker foot and the ‘keeper pushed it away. Their attacks were sporadic and fitful thereafter though and a couple of corners aside, they didn’t threaten too much. Then, on 24 minutes, Uruguay doubled their lead. A corner was cleared away and when the resultant shot was forced back into the box by Diego Laxalt, it took a wicked deflection off the unwitting calf of Cheryshev and looped its way into the back of the net.

Russia looked a completely different proposition without Aleksandr Golovin in their team, his probing ingenuity and guile sorely lacking from any attacks that Russia attempted to create. They were scattered and disjointed as things were but events took a turn for the worse when Igor Smolnikov got his marching orders for a second yellow card after just 36 minutes. Having seen his shot saved and then contributing the final touch for Uruguay’s second goal, Cheryshev’s miserable afternoon had its coup de grace as he was sacrificed for the defensive reinforcement in the shape of Mario Fernandes.

Although Uruguay largely controlled affairs in the first half, the central midfield again failed to make their presence felt. Rodrigo Bentancur, in particular, looked sluggish and flat, spending more time fouling then looking to impose himself in a manner befitting his position in the team. That lack of rhythm in the middle doesn’t get as much from Suarez and Edinson Cavani as it might; it wasn’t so important in the first half but it will be come knock-out time, and this tie against Russia was a perfect time to try.

The most illustrative event of the opening 15 minutes of the second half was when Suarez threw himself to the ground, feigning extreme pain after he’d miss-kicked the ball – he’s still got it. Fernando Muslera was reproached by the referee for time-wasting – this is the goalkeeper of a team who were two goals up against a team of ten men, bereft of attacking options – with the best part of 25 minutes left. Other than that, there was very little to recommend about the play of either side up until the 89th minute when, following another set play, Cavani was first to react to Igor Akinfeev’s parry and poked home the goal he so badly wanted.

Uruguay are a hard-working side who are extremely solid in defence and tend to get the job done, mainly by way of set-pieces. The flip-side of this is that they are lacking a serious amount of creativity and speed in the middle and, in this tournament at least, haven’t done enough to get Suarez and Cavani into the game on a regular enough basis from open play. Still, they finish Group A as winners with three wins from three and no goals conceded and it’s hard to argue with that.

If you think Uruguay can upset Portugal in the second round, get the best odds with the best betting sites below:

Iran 1-1 Portugal

Iran equalise for shock 1-1 draw with Portugal

A number of Iran supporters decided to do their bit for the team the night before this game by having themselves a wee vuvuzela party outside of Portugal’s team hotel late into the night. Reports suggest that the great man himself, Cristiano Ronaldo, channelled his inner Eva Peron and appealed to the little people below his balcony perch to cease and desist. They did for a while but then some more came back. Such breathtaking disrespect to Ronaldo is an affront to humanity as a whole – for shame. Suggestions that Carlos Queiroz was behind the move remain unconfirmed.

Incredibly, those callous actions didn’t stop Ronaldo from taking to the pitch but, one early shot aside, he was quite blunted in attack throughout the first half. As was expected, Portugal enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but Iran were not without their threat either, fashioning the occasional chance here and there. Nothing to really trouble Rui Patricio between the sticks but dropping every man behind the ball they were not.

For a long time, it looked as if Portugal were going nowhere – slowly; this was best evidenced by Ronaldo dropping deeper into midfield and trying his luck from 40 yards out. Then, on the stroke of half-time, Ricardo Quaresma and his magic right foot stepped up to the plate. A little give-and-go set him up, wide right of the penalty area, and he contorted himself to shoot with the outside of his boot and arc it over the ‘keeper. They may have been unconvincing but Portugal went in at half time a goal to the good.

The second half exploded into life after five minutes when Portugal were awarded a penalty via VAR for the upending of Ronaldo. Iran’s players lost control of themselves and were fortunate that the ref didn’t send one of them off, so vociferous were their objections. It didn’t matter in the end as Ronaldo’s penalty was saved by Alireza Beiranvand. It was a rare thing to see but it was an atypical penalty from the man, more along the lines of an Eden Hazard than the thunderous blasts that we have become used to. Iran managed to keep all their players on the pitch but couldn’t harness their anger into anything constructive.

There were a couple of controversial incidents, specifically one where it looked as if Ronaldo ‘left one on’ his marker. VAR was called into action and the ref issued a yellow card to Portugal’s captain. One wondered what the outcome might have been if that situation had been reversed. On 90 minutes, after a long time of idle confusion on the pitch, the ref was eventually called over to take a look at a possible handball in Portugal’s box but it looked very soft. VAR thought differently and the referee awarded it all the same. Portugal raged but Iran didn’t give a damn and Karim Ansarifard stepped up to stick it right where the postage stamp lives. All of a sudden, Portugal were looking over the precipice. Iran stormed forward and hit the side netting, Portugal were rocked. They made a substitution to break the flow of the game and still, Iran came but try as they might, they couldn’t get the goal that would have seen them through and send Portugal home.

Iran’s players collapsed in a heap at the full time whistle, their dreams over for another four years. They came so close to putting Portugal out but didn’t have that touch of quality when they needed it most. What will be spoken about most, however, will be the number of VAR decisions that went on in the match. Some were right, some were wrong and some weren’t called at all. Up until this point in the tournament, VAR had pleasantly surprised most by the number of good calls that it had made but this match showed it in its most ill-fitting clothes – uncomfortable in its own skin and unable to walk straight. Portugal progress and, for their sins, have to face Uruguay in the first knock-out round.

About the author

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

Sports Journalist

Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.