Uruguay vs Russia Preview: Who can top Group A?

Uruguay vs Russia Preview: Who can top Group A?

Uruguay and Russia won their first two games in very different fashions. Could the hosts surprise the world by topping the group in Samara?

Jakub Bobro

The hosts Russia came into the tournament as the lowest-ranked side, but have absolutely stunned everyone, winning 5-0 and 3-1 over Saudi Arabia and Egypt respectively. 

Uruguay were touted as possible dark horses before the tournament, but they haven't been convincing so far, getting two 1-0 wins. Russia will be their first big test.

This match will determine the winner of the group. Russia need a draw or win to top the group, Uruguay would need a win.

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An unexpected Germany

Many were worried about Russia's performance at their home World Cup. It is always tough to watch the hosts struggle, and does decrease the enthusiasm of local fans. Russia looked to be on that path. Cherchesov's men only scored two goals in four matches, picking up no wins, one draw, and three losses.

At the actual World Cup, it's been a completely different story, despite losing their star man Alexander Dzagoev due to injury in the first half of their 5-0 win against Saudi Arabia. Russia followed the win up with a strong 3-1 win over Egypt, controlling the match throughout.

Alexander Golovin was someone who was predicted to be a revelation for Russia, and while he has impressed in his playmaker role, Denis Cheryshev is the one who's starred for Russia. The former Real Madrid winger's career seemed to be on the downturn, as he scored only four goals all season for Villareal. The 27-year-old has already bagged three in two matches, and is tied for fourth in the Golden Boot standings. 

Russia might have more of a tough time against Uruguay, as they will be the first truly defensively responsible side that Russia has played. Uruguay have world class centre halves Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, as well as world class strikers in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. It will be interesting to see how Cherchesov sets his team up to combat those two strengths.

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Solid, but disappointing?

Oscar Tabarez's team quietly gained support to make a surprising run, with some suggesting that this side has more quality than the one that reached the semi-finals in 2010 appeared to. Midfielders Rodrigo Bentancur, Lucas Torreira, and Matias Vecino can offer some creativity, whilst Luis Suarez and Cavani offer more together than Diego Forlan could on his own.

Overall, Uruguay haven't impressed yet. They struggled to break down Egypt and didn't score until the 89th minute in a nervy opening game. Against Saudi Arabia, Luis Suarez scored early, and Uruguay decided to sit back for the rest of the match, comfortable winning 1-0. 

As mentioned earlier, Uruguay do have a solid defense, something Russia haven't dealt with before. Uruguay will also have to play more openly as they will only advance with a win.