In the battle for the Group A title, Uruguay won the spoils in an incredibly hot evening in Samara. It was all settled in the first half, with two goals, including a strike from Luis Suarez, and a red card effectively deciding the game’s fate. Russia did not give in, however, which made for an interesting contest even if the play petered out at times.
Luis Suarez, Uruguay Down Russia on Home Soil
It was a cagey opening five minutes, with Uruguay holding the ascendancy in possession. A counterattack led by Luis Suarez led to a freekick won right on the edge of the area by Rodrigo Bentacur.
Suarez placed the resulting freekick in the bottom right corner with a sublime finish. This was a moment of real quality, invoking the plaudits of fans and players alike. Igor Akinfeev could have perhaps done more since the Uruguay striker placed the ball in his nearest corner.
Russia were not down and out though thanks to Denis Cheryshev. A counter-attack from the Russian won a corner after Cheryshev’s shot was scrambled away by Fernando Muslera.
The first save from the keeper was very unconvincing, a shot parried directly back out to the players closing him down. Not a promising sign for later in the competition.
There was a good deal of pressing by the Russians who tried to limit Uruguay’s time on the ball. Thus the first half was exciting and end to end with both teams exchanging possession.
A gleaming chance was missed by Artem Dzyuba who cannoned his header into the floor and over the bar.
Uruguay’s second goal was a dubious one. Akinfeev was defeated by Diego Laxalt’s deflected shot from the edge of the box. The shot was going far wide until Cheryshev’s shot unfortunately deflected the ball past his keeper.
There wasn’t much any player could do there. A freak moment.
It should have been 3-0 at 28 minutes, with a poor kick from Akinfeev straight into Uruguay’s possession. The build-up was looking incredibly dangerous, but Rodrigo Bentancur was not direct enough and Akinfeev redeemed himself with a save.
Russia’s nail in the coffin occurred when got sent off at 36 minutes. Smolnikov was sent off for a second yellow card with a collection of rash tackles. This moment of the match killed the carnival atmosphere that had pervaded Samara prior to the match.
The second half was exciting for both teams. Russia strained to fight back against Uruguay. Much of this was a physical battle as much as anything. Dzyuba lead Russia’s strong-armed tactics.
Cavani nearly added to Russia’s misery. He cut inside in the 68th minute with his threatening swagger. However, he could not steer his shot on target, it was a poor effort.
Dzyuba spooned a chance after Muslera gifted possession to Russia. He cut inside, working some good space, but his shot was woeful.
A late chance in the 80th minute was spurned by Suarez and Cavani. Suarez could not square the ball accurately enough to find Cavani, which really would have secured the three points.
Uruguay and Russia continued to exchange blows till the last. Rodrigues struck a belter towards the top right corner which was admirably saved by Akinfeev. However, Godin header was not dealt with by Akinfeev at the following corner, allowing Cavani to tap home.
He was not playing at his best in this match. His organisation for the Suarez freekick goal was poor, despite the quality of the freekick. Some other moments in the game only served to undermine his credibility.
In fact, he only seems to be reinforcing the idea that he is a very inconsistent goalkeeper. A world class keeper is able to keep his team in the competition. But a poor ‘keeper may just cost his nation the chance of winning glory.
Russia persists with Akinfeev chiefly because there are no other keepers with his experience. This is worrying for the host nation.
Both teams were pretty wasteful and failed to create any real clear-cut chances. In comparison the goal glut of England versus Panama or Portugal’s three all draw with Spain, these are teams that seem to struggle to create the right openings.
This is perhaps a little surprising, given the attacking talent in both teams. Russia struggle mostly because of the lack of pace that Dzyuba has. He is supplied by speedy wide players, but this means the play is held up on the counter.
Uruguay meanwhile had the world-class talent of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to call upon. The issue for Uruguay more stems from their lack of chance creation rather than finishing. These quality players can score with ease.
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