Has the bubble burst for the hosts?

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What Happened

Uruguay needed a win to top Group A and they got exactly what they wished for, in a 3-0 victory over Russia. The hosts had come off two convincing wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but were put to the test against the Uruguayans who saved their best for the final group stage fixture.

Russia appeared rattled after an early concession where Luis Suarez drilled a free kick past Igor Akinfeev on his near post. Things got bad to worse as they went down 2-0 via a heavy deflection off Denis Cheryshev, while Igor Smolnikov received a second yellow card after just 36 minutes and was sent off.

Edinson Cavani applied the finishing touch with a 90th minute goal to help Uruguay maintain their dominance from start to finish.

The dead-rubber between Saudi Arabia and Egypt went in the Saudi’s favour 2-1 allowing them to leapfrog over their opponent into third place on the Group A table. All that these teams could do was get a win to take a small win out of this World Cup to better their table position.

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring after 22 minutes, but Salman Al-Faraj scored from the spot in first half stoppage time before Salem Al-Dawsari got the late minute winner in the 95th minute.

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Stand Out Performers

Uruguay’s goalkeeper and defence can be credited as standout performers after three matches. In the 100th cap for his nation, Fernando Muslera celebrated a third clean sheet in a row in this World Cup, protected by a sturdy defensive line led by Diego Godin.

The Uruguayan’s have yet to concede a goal in the tournament and while their attack hasn’t lived up completely to its billing, the backline has been flawless.

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Talking Points

Have Russia been given a reality check or was it simply an off day? It’s hard to judge only off the performance against Uruguay, but the South Americans do have stellar talent in their squad who simply out-classed the hosts.

If Russia can bring the energy and excitement back for their Round for 16 encounter then they’re still a chance of doing some damage. Can they replicate their free-flowing style of play against another powerhouse opponent? They have a big opportunity to rebound strongly and show they’re the real deal.

What it Means

Uruguay head into the Round of 16 as the undefeated team of Group A with form and momentum in their favour by pinching first place from Russia in the deciding match. A comprehensive display shows they’re a team who can go deep in the tournament.

Russia qualified past the group stage which fans of the host nation would’ve happily taken pre-tournament to avoid embarrassment. They do need to lift another gear to continue their World Cup journey and show their first two group stage wins were no fluke.

Needs Work

Russia could give Fedor Smolov more minutes to get their counter attack going again. Artem Dzyuba got his second start in a row, but struggled as a target man against a Uruguay defence that didn’t give too much away.

It’s between Dzyuba and Smolov for the striker position and the latter could provide some extra zip up front, especially if Russia lose the possession battle and midfield dominance which hurts their chance creation that Dzyuba needs.

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What Next

Uruguay face a Portugal side who finished second in Group B. Spain topped that group and they’ll provide a stern test for the surprise-packet of Russia.

Goal of the Day

A stoppage time winner from Salem Al-Dawsari gave Saudi Arabia something to cheer about before heading out of the World Cup with Egypt.

The 95th minute volley was expertly taken and buried into the bottom left corner. The celebration was something to behold as Al-Dawsari completed a cartwheel followed by a back flip in quick succession.

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Miss of the day

Fahad Al-Muwallad may have a penalty miss to his name, but it was a cracking save from Egyptian veteran Essam El Hadary, the 45-year-old became the oldest player ever at a World Cup.

He guessed the right way to push out a good-looking attempt from Al-Muwallad which came off the crossbar.

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