Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 16 News List

World Cup: Uruguay edge Saudi Arabia to advance

SPECIAL GOAL:Luis Suarez scored the winner on his 100th international appearance to become the first Uruguayan to score a goal in three separate finals

AFP, ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia

Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani, right, challenges Saudi Arabia’s Osama Hawsawi for the ball in their FIFA World Cup Group A match in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

Uruguay on Wednesday booked their place in the FIFA World Cup knockout stage along with Russia, as Luis Suarez scored the winner on his 100th international appearance in a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Rostov-on-Don.

Uruguay take on the hosts in their final Group A match on Monday with the top spot on the line, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been eliminated after both suffered back-to-back defeats.

Russia and Uruguay are to face one of the top two teams from Group B in the last 16 — either Portugal, Spain or Iran.

Suarez, 31, whose previous two World Cups both ended in bans after his infamous 2010 handball against Ghana and bite on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini four years later, took advantage of a goalkeeping error by Mohammed al-Owais to put Uruguay ahead midway through the first half.

Oscar Tabarez’s side missed plenty of opportunities to add further goals, but a toothless Saudi Arabia outfit never seriously looked like snatching a point.

“His sense of responsibility is remarkable,” Tabarez said of Suarez. “He assumes the pressure, which he lives under and it gives him a unique character. Even when he doesn’t play well, he always believes he can make a contribution for the team.”

Uruguay, semi-finalists eight years ago in South Africa, have now reached the knockout stage for the third straight time, while Saudi Arabia will try again in their search for a first World Cup win since 1994 in their final game against Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.

Suarez made a bright start, looking to make amends for his poor performance in the opening 1-0 win against Egypt, firing a left-footed volley from Cristian Rodriguez’s knockdown that was blocked by Ali al-Bulayhi.

Saudi Arabia managed to have plenty of early possession, although without looking overly threatening, only to gift Uruguay a 23rd-minute lead.

Al-Owais — winning only his second cap after replacing Abdullah al-Muaiouf in goal — completely missed a floated Carlos Sanchez corner and Suarez tapped in his 52nd international goal unmarked at the back post.

That strike was Suarez’s sixth World Cup goal and made him the first Uruguayan to score in three separate finals.

“The goal was special, because I wanted to make up for the other day against Egypt,” Suarez said.

Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia continued to look far more assured on the ball than they did in the 5-0 drubbing by Russia on the opening day of the tournament, with Hatan Bahbri firing a wild volley over shortly after seeing a long-range effort tipped away by Fernando Muslera.

Uruguay began the second period with greater purpose, and Suarez went close to a second when al-Owais palmed clear his low free-kick.

The three points and a last-16 spot should have been wrapped up just after the hour mark, but Sanchez headed over when unmarked at the back post from a wonderful Edinson Cavani cross.

Uruguay continued to be wasteful in front of goal, as Martin Caceres sent a header flying off target from 33-year-old Sanchez’s free-kick.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Cavani came close to emulating Suarez by scoring in a third World Cup, but his low shot was smothered by the onrushing al-Owais.

However, Uruguay showed all their know-how and experience, as Atletico Madrid defensive pair Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin helped see out the closing moments with ease.

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