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Uruguay rout 10-man Russia to top Group A, Saudi Arabia and Egypt head home

© Manan Vatsyayana, AFP | In the next round, Uruguay will play the second team to qualify from Group B.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-06-25

Uruguay burnished their World Cup credentials with a 3-0 victory over 10-man Russia on Monday, to beat them to the top spot in Group A, while Saudi Arabia won their first tournament game in 12 against Mo Salah's Egypt.

Luis Suarez grabbed his second goal of the tournament to open Uruguay's account with a free kick after 10 minutes and they doubled the lead with an own goal from Russia's Denis Cheryshev soon after.

That silenced a vociferous home crowd who had been in party mode after Russia's opening two victories and were not expecting their final group contest to be effectively ended in the 36th minute when Igor Smolnikov was sent off for a second booking.

Edinson Cavani bundled home a third goal for Uruguay at the death to wrap up their third straight victory, ensuring they finished above the Russians, who will now have to face the winners of Group B in the last 16.

Uruguay, who kept their sixth straight clean sheet, will face the runners-up from that group, which will be decided when Spain, Portugal and Iran battle it out for two last-16 spots later on Monday.

While Russia had confounded those who predicted a group stage exit with resounding victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there was still a question mark over how they would perform when they faced stronger opposition.

Smolnikov's sending off may have ended Russia's hopes but in truth the encounter had already swung decisively against them by that point.

They went behind in sweltering conditions at the Samara Arena when Suarez struck a low free kick into the bottom corner that should have been easy pickings for Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev.

Sadly for the home fans, who had created a deafening din in the opening minutes, Akinfeev inexplicably vacated his bottom left corner, moving back to the side of the goal his wall was guarding and leaving space for Suarez to stroke the ball home.

It was Suarez's second of the tournament and seventh World Cup goal overall for Uruguay, with only Oscar Miguez having scored more for the South Americans with eight.

Uruguay doubled their lead in the 23rd minute when Diego Laxalt's shot from the edge of the area deflected off Cheryshev, leaving Akinfeev wrong-footed.

It should have been 3-0 before Smolnikov departed, but Akinfeev made a good save to deny Rodrigo Bentancur when the midfielder was played through by Suarez.

With their job done, Uruguay took their foot off the pedal in the second half and only added to their lead in the 90th minute when Cavani finished from close range after Diego Godin's header was saved.

Russia battled valiantly and had a penalty appeal turned down after a VAR consultation late in the game, but there was little else to cheer the home fans.

The World Cup's oldest play ever

In the other match in Group A, Saudi Arabia beat Mohamed Salah's Egypt 2-1 in Volgograd but the main talking point was Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary becoming the oldest player ever to appear in a World Cup.

El Hadary, who is 45 years and 161 days old, smashed the record set by Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was aged 43 years and three days when he played against Japan in Brazil in 2014.

When he made his international debut in 1996, Ramadan Sobhi, who came on as a substitute, was not even born.

The veteran goalkeeper produced a stunning save from a Fahad al-Muwallad penalty after Salah had given Egypt the lead but could not keep out another spot kick by Salman al-Faraj in first-half injury time.

The Saudis ended a dispiriting run of 12 World Cup matches without a win, recording their first victory at a finals since 1994 with a last-gasp winner from Salem al-Dawsari but it was not enough to stop them going home.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2018-06-25

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