FIFA World Cup 2018: Uruguay vs Russia preview
The story so far
Both Uruguay and hosts Russia have achieved similar results in their opening two matches, albeit in contrasting fashion. The South Americans had to rely on a late goal from Gimenez to win the opener against Egypt 1-0 and scraped through another win against Saudi Arabia with the same scoreline. Russia, meanwhile, trounced the Saudis 5-0 in the opening match of the tournament and convincingly beat Egypt 3-1.
When the two clash at the Samara Arena on Monday, the Russians would want to show the world that they're here for the long run. A win against Uruguay would help reinforce belief within the players that they can beat anyone in front of their fans.
Uruguay haven't started all guns blazing as some would have expected. After a couple of drab 1-0s, they would hope to bring their talent to the forefront, especially the deadly attacking duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
What's up for grabs
The top spot in the group. However, with the possibility of Spain finishing second in Group B not impossible or even improbable, one would argue that top spot is not really a prize worth chasing (The Round of 16 features the top team in Group A facing the second-placed team in Group B, and vice versa). And even if they avoid Spain, they would likely be up against Christiano Ronaldo's Portugal. Yet, it would give the winners confidence to go further in the competition and belief while facing much stronger opponents in the knockout rounds.
Having settled into the World Cup, Luis Suarez will now be expected to light it up. Veteran defender Sergey Ignashevich as the left-sided centre-back and Yuri Zhirkov at Left Back patrol the left half of Russia's defence. Both, though still capable, are on the wrong side of 30 and If Suarez, with the help of Cavani, can attack that area with his full might, he will get plenty of fruit.
Towards the other penalty area, meanwhile, the Atletico Madrid duo of Gimenez and Diego Godin will want to keep another clean sheet against Dzyuba, Cheryshev, Golovin and Semedov, who have wreaked havoc in the opposition defences so far.
Possessing a superior goal difference to their opponents, they only need a point to guarantee top spot, so they might opt to sit back and defend. However, I expect Uruguay to finally get into their stride and come up with a solid performance against the hosts. Russia will likely find Uruguay too strong an opposition and will need the backing of the home crowd to get anything out of this game.
Uruguay 2-0 Russia