World Cup hosts Russia played Uruguay in the last round of group A, in a match that was set to decide the group winner as both teams previously beat both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who were therefore without any chance of going through.
Oscar Tabarez arranged the Uruguay team in a 4-4-2 diamond shape, with Fernando Muslera in goal, the back four of Martin Caceres, Sebastian Coates, Diego Godin and Diego Laxalt, Lucas Torreira anchoring the midfield flanked by Nahitan Nandez and Matias Vecino in the two box-to-box roles, while Rodrigo Bentacut occupied the space behind the two strikers – Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
The hosts took a different approach. Coach Stanislav Cherchesov chose to rely on the power of Artem Dzyuba upfront in the 4-2-3-1 formation, with the trio of Denis Cheryshev, Aleksey Miranchuk and Aleksanr Samedov playing right behind the formidable striker. Roman Zobnin and Yuri Gazinskiy were the pair of deep-sitting midfielders ahead of the defence consisting of Fedor Kudryashov, Sergei Ignashevich, Ilya Kutepov and Igor Smolnikov. As always, Igor Akinfeev stood between the posts.
The First Half
Though Russia as the host nation came into this match with high hopes, it didn’t take too long for Uruguay to stamp their authority over the proceedings. Just 10 minutes were gone when Gazinskiy brought down Bentacur right on the edge of the box, in a great position for a good shooter. Well-known, among other things, for his ability to take a free-kick, Suarez deemed it too close to go over the wall and opted to smack it low around it. His shot caught Akinfeev on the wrong foot, the goalkeeper was unable to recover and get down in time and Uruguay were in the lead.
The Russians tried to hit back immediately as Dzyuba created an opportunity for Cheryshev, but the winger’s volley was saved without difficulty by Muslera. Soon after that Dzyuba himself had a great chance from a corner but his free header hit the ground before flying off target.
The clock was showing 23rd minute was running when Uruguay doubled their lead. Torreira took a corner, it was cleared but only as far as Laxalt whose shot awkwardly caught Cheryshev, changed direction and went past Akinfeev into the net.
And then the woes of the Russians really hit. In the 27th minute Smolnikov picked up a booking, and it took him only nine more minutes to get another one for a foul on Laxalt, leaving his team-mates to play just under an hour a man down against a very good opponent; and with a two-goal deficit already.
The Second Half
Uruguay had no desire, nor indeed any reason, to rev their engine anymore. They held everything under control, slowing the game down, perfectly happy with the result and not giving their outnumbered opponents a chance to develop their game.
There was a period which lasted about 15 minutes when the Russians still managed to muster some composure, keeping the ball in their possession for longer spells and outlining some kind of an attacking plan. But that plan always seemed to consist of one and the same approach: play long, get the ball as far up the pitch to Dzyuba, and trust the strength of the 6’5” striker to try and break through, or at least hold it up until the cavalry arrives.
However, the vast quality and experience of Uruguay captain Diego Godin was simply too much for Dzyuba to overcome. With 60 minutes gone, Cherchesov felt he needed to help the striker and he sent in Fedor Smolov instead of Miranchuk, another striker instead of an attacking midfielder, but it made no difference. Apart from Godin, the rest of the Uruguayan defence were also very alert in this game and there was simply no way through.
As the match approached its end, the Russian drive seemed to have been exhausted and Uruguay moved forward again. Within the last 10 minutes, Cristian Rodriguez who had earlier replaced Nandez, took two awkward shots that Akinfeev managed to save, Suarez tried to tee up Cavani inside the box but overhit the pass, and the Paris-Saint Germain striker wasted another opportunity before finally putting an end to Russia’s misery at the stroke of time.
A corner was swung in, Godin completed his overall great impression with a superb jump and a header on target, Akinfeev parried it in such a way that it was in the end a race between Suarez and Cavani for the ball. Cavani was quicker and slammed it into the undefended net from close range.
The two-times World Champions took every opportunity to impose themselves on this game, to put it under their control, and they deservedly came out on top. Russia also goes through thanks to their fine displays in the first two rounds, and both teams will now be looking anxiously towards the scramble in group B where their respective opponents for the round of 16, played on Saturday, will be decided between Spain, Portugal, and surprisingly enough, Iran.
RUSSIA: Akinfeev 7, Ignashevich 7, Kutepov 7, Kudryashov 7, Smolnikov 5.5, Gazinskiy 6.5 (46’ Kuzyaev 6.5), Zobnin 7, Samedov 6.5, Cheryshev 6.5 (38’ Fernandes 7), Miranchuk 7(60’ Smolov N/A), Dzyuba 7.5.
URUGUAY: Muslera 7, Coates 7.5, Godin 8.5, Caceres 7.5, Laxalt 7.5, Torreira 7, Nandez 7 (73’ Rodriguez 7.5), Vecino 7, Bentacur 7 (63’ De Arrascaeta 6.5), Suarez 8, Cavani 7.5 (90’ Gomez N/A).
GOALS: Suarez 10’, Cheryshev (OG) 23’, Cavani 90’+1.
YELLOW CARDS: Gazinskiy 9’, Smolnikov 27’ + 36’, Bentacur 59’.
RED CARDS: Smolnikov (2nd yellow) 36’.
REFEREE: Malang Diedhiou (Senegal).
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!