Both Russia and Uruguay have qualified for the knock-out stages. That doesn’t take anything out of their upcoming match, however. If anything, the stakes are even higher as the match will decide Group A’s top seed. The two teams coming out of Group A will play the top two from Group B. Although both Group B powerhouses are to be feared, Group A’s winner will feel confident as the top seed. The Russians have performed admirably, while Uruguay, along with Edinson Cavani, haven’t proved anything just yet. With all this being said, what’s to expect from Monday’s fixture?
Russia v Uruguay
What to Expect From Russia
The Russians have been firing on all cylinders. Their attack has been the top in the tournament with eight goals in only two matches. Their defence has also been class, only conceding a single penalty converted by Mo Salah. Many overlooked Russia prior to the World Cup, but the hosts are playing with something to prove.
Like in Russia’s previous fixtures, all eyes will be on the young Aleksander Golovin. Although he wasn’t stellar against Egypt, the youth sensation was near perfect when playing against Saudi Arabia. Uruguay’s centre of the defence is as elite as it gets, boasting names such as José Giménez and Diego Godín, so Golovin’s creativity and crossing ability will be heavily relied upon.
Alan Dzagoev’s status remains unclear after his hamstring injury in the opening match, but it seems as if he might miss the rest of the tournament. This hasn’t proved to be an issue for the Russians just yet. Instead, it has been quite the opposite. Denis Cheryshev has stepped in admirably, scoring a brace off the bench against Saudi Arabia and adding in another goal versus the Egyptians. Cheryshev will certainly start again, and look to gain traction in the hunt for the Golden Boot.
Russia’s centre-backs will face their toughest test yet. Ilya Kutepov and Sergei Ignashevich have done their job, but Uruguay will come in with two of football’s superstar strikers. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez have yet to find their feet, but the world knows what they’re capable of. Kutepov, 24, and Ignashevich, 38, are a solid blend of youth and experience and have been preparing for this task for weeks. They’ll forget the strikers’ struggles and look to continue to slow down Uruguay’s potent attack.
What to Expect From Uruguay
Uruguay have the capability to keep clean sheets against the best of teams, but live and die through their attack’s production. They survived in their game with Egypt thanks to a late Giménez winner off a free-kick but failed to convince versus Saudi Arabia’s poor defence. The Russian’s can’t claim elite strikers like Uruguay, but still managed to put five behind the Saudis’ defence.
Russia have been very strong through their aerial attack thus far. Although Giménez and Godín can handle this, Uruguay’s full-backs must prevent crosses from coming in. Although they have yet to concede, the defence hasn’t yet faced any forwards better than subpar. Salah wasn’t fit for the opening match, and no names stand out on the Saudis’ team sheet. Mártin Caceres and Guillermo Varela must remain wary of players such as Golovin and Aleksander Samedov whipping in crosses left and right.
Perhaps it is also time for manager Óscar Tabárez to put his faith in Lucas Torreira. The young midfielder has made substitute appearances in both of their matches but has yet to start. He recently concluded an outstanding season in Italy, earning him a move to English powerhouse Arsenal. Torreira is nicknamed ‘the pitbull’ for a reason – he plays with his heart on his sleeve and slows down attacks through his tackling and intercepting ability. He has been compared to stars such as Arturo Vidal, and the time is now from him to break out on the international stage.
Lastly, Cavani and Suárez must perform. The duo has seen a plethora of chances, but have only contributed to one goal (Suárez versus Saudi Arabia). Cavani scored 40 goals and notched seven assists in 54 appearances this past year. Suárez scored 35 goals and recorded 15 assists in 50 appearances in what was considered a “down year.” They are elite, and there will be no excuse if they fail to perform once again.
The Last Word
Both teams have qualified for the latter stages. They can feel a bit more relaxed, but there is still a sense of urgency. The top seed of Group A is on the line. More than this, the Russians will look to continue their dominance and surprise the world while Uruguay will look to avoid more criticism for their lack of dominance. A draw will see the Russians finish first through goal difference, but a win also guarantees the top seed for either side.
Uruguay needs confidence for the Round of 16. The team has too much firepower to win by a single goal versus less talented sides. The time is now for them to prove their worth. Cavani will finally look like his PSG self and lead his country to a 2-1 victory.