The Football Sack revisits what took place from Group A in the World Cup!

What Happened

The hosts got off to a dream start in a 5-0 thumping against Saudi Arabia. The Russians were favoured to win but the scoreline was a surprise. They took control from the outset and could expose a very leaky Saudi defence. Russia’s slick counter attacks proved too much to handle for the Saudi’s who appeared overawed by the occasion.

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Uruguay weren’t at their best but a late winner from Jose Gimenez ensured they still took the three points and in the process, break Egyptian hearts. Uruguay piled on the pressure late in the contest and it was Gimenez who rose for a booming header from a corner to snatch a 1-0 victory.

Stand Out Performers

It was a great day out for Russia’s substitutes in their big win, as Denis Cheryshev got himself a classy brace off the bench. He replaced the injured Alan Dzagoev who succumbed to a hamstring after just 24 minutes in a bitter blow for the star midfielder.

Cheryshev was the man to come on and he got his first goal shortly before half-time. He went around two diving Saudi challenges before calmly slotting his shot into the top left corner. His second was even more impressive going for a well-executed attempt using the outside of his left boot. It was one of those strikes that a keeper could do very little about.

Big shoutout to Artem Dzyuba who came straight off the bench and scored with his first involvement – a well-placed header into the bottom right corner.

Talking Points

Mohamed Salah was left on the bench for Egypt’s first match, so perhaps he isn’t quite ready for the rigours of a World Cup. Despite Egypt lacking creativity in attack, Salah was kept in reserve and could still feature in the group stage.

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It adds to the great unknown about not only his match fitness and conditioning, but whether Egypt are now thinking that he would’ve been rushed back too soon against Uruguay. It looks as if Salah will need more time to prepare before heading out for his country.

What it Means

Russia’s hopes of moving past the group stage have been boosted significantly. Despite having no qualifying matches under their belt coupled with uninspiring friendlies, they did more than what was expected of them. There’s the very real possibility of topping the group if things continue to go their way.

Saudi Arabia did quite the opposite as an AFC representative, it wasn’t a good look for the confederation first up. What they can’t afford is let the floodgates open, they’ll be desperate to address the nature of which the goals went in. The space that Russia could work in was a concern.

Needs Work

Uruguay will need to significantly improve despite collecting an opening group stage win. They had the chances against a resilient Egypt, but an attack led by the star duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will be wanting more and towards the end of the game there were promising signs from Cavani, his volley was denied by a spectacular save and a free-kick came back off the post.

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The pending inclusion of Salah to Egypt’s front third will liven their attack up significantly. It’s no secret how important Salah is to the nation’s chances of progression and with a conservative approach taken in his recovery from injury, he could soon be fit and ready to go.

What Next

Match day two sees Russia take on Egypt in the first fixture, followed by Uruguay and Saudi Arabia.

Goal of the day

Cheryshev’s second goal capped off his brace and as he got Russia’s fourth of the match, it was very much party time. A special strike by Cheryshev required skill and technique to pull it off and he had that in abundance.

Miss of the day

Luis Suarez had a forgetful and frustrating day and at one point forgot how to shoot. Cavani flicked a through ball over to Suarez and made a meal of his attempt at goal.

Instead of trying to get an early shot away, he was a little too fancy and aimed to dribble past Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy. He won the battle as he pounced on a hesitant Suarez to gather the ball from the Uruguayan’s feet.

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Liam Watson is covering Melbourne Victory this season while completing Media and Communications at La Trobe University.