Luis Suarez is set to win his 100th Uruguay cap as he bids to make amends for past World Cup misdemeanours against a Saudi Arabia side still reeling from a thrashing in their opening fixture.
Suarez was sent off for the handball that denied Ghana a goal in the quarter-finals of the 2010 tournament in South Africa, leaving the suspended striker to watch from the sidelines as La Celeste lost 3-2 to Netherlands and missed out on a place in the final.
In Brazil four years ago he was banned from all football activity for four months and suspended for nine international matches after biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the group stage, leaving his team-mates to bow out at the hands of Colombia in the round of 16.
That notorious incident did not prevent him moving from Liverpool to Barcelona, where the 31-year-old has flourished, and he has arrived at the tournament in Russia at the peak of his powers, in what is likely to be the last chance for the former Ajax attacker and several of his experienced team-mates, including Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid, to make an impact on the biggest stage in football.
Their opponents in Rostov on Wednesday will be Saudi Arabia, who proved unexpectedly hapless in suffering a 5-0 thrashing against the relatively unfancied hosts in the event's curtain-raiser in Moscow last week.
Uruguay were less impressive in their first fixture, and needed Jose Gimenez's 89th-minute goal to snatch all three points against Egypt, who did not risk the recovering Mohamed Salah.
Guillermo Varela was among Uruguay's most consistent performers in the narrow victory in Ekaterinburg, and the Penarol right-back is not worried about Suarez's below-par display.
"I see Luis [doing] well, with desire and enthusiasm," he said.
"Although he could not convert [his chances against Egypt], we also have other colleagues who can do it.
"In this case it was Josema [Jose Gimenez], but Luis is a great player."
Esta mañana, la Celeste trabajó en el gimnasio y en una de las canchas del complejo Sports Centre Borsky.@Uruguay prepara el partido del miércoles ante Arabia Saudita.#ElEquipoQueNosUne pic.twitter.com/umnAMnvYA4— Selección Uruguaya (@Uruguay) June 17, 2018
Former Saudi star Nawaf Al-Temyat was among those dismayed at the meek showing produced by the team against Russia in Moscow, a performance which even led to calls for coach Juan Antonio Pizzi to consider his future after just one competitive match in charge.
"We allowed them to impose their way of playing that differs from ours," Al-Temyat said in an interview published by the Saudi Football Federation.
"We should not forget… the bitterness of what happened, but this should be addressed in a proper way that reflects the players, the administrative staff and the national team."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Uruguay - Luis Suarez
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez is reportedly set to start with Carlos Sanchez and Cristian Rodriguez ahead of Nahitan Nandez and Giorgian De Arrascaeta on the flanks in a bid to help Suarez produce his best against Saudi Arabia, who could prove the perfect opponents for the deadly marksman to find his rhythm.
Saudi Arabia - Osama Hawsawi
The captain of Saudi Arabia, 34-year-old Al-Hilal centre-back Hawsawi, was woefully ill-equipped to deal with Russia's pace and movement in attack last week, and the challenge facing the defender and his team-mates appears far more daunting at Rostov Arena. Unless major individual and collective improvement takes place, another rout could be on the cards.
| لاعبو المنتخب الوطني في طريقهم إلى نادي زينيت لإجراء الحصة التدريبية. pic.twitter.com/Pj3KBh0j3c— المنتخب السعودي (@SaudiNT) June 18, 2018
KEY OPTA STATS:
- This is the third encounter between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia and the first at a World Cup. The Saudis are unbeaten in the two previous fixtures, both home friendlies (W1 D1).
- This is Saudi Arabia's 15th game at a World Cup but their first against a South American side.
- Uruguay have won all three of their previous World Cup games against Asian opponents, scoring five and conceding just once (includes a 1970 victory against Israel, then part of the AFC).
- Saudi Arabia have finished bottom of their group in their last three World Cup appearances, their best performance dating back to their opening tournament in 1994 (knocked out by Sweden in the round of 16).
- Saudi Arabia have won none of their last 11 games at the World Cup, losing nine of them (D2). Their last win in the competition dates back to the group stages of the 1994 edition (1-0 v Belgium, 29th June 1994).
- Saudi Arabia have failed to score in eight of their last 10 World Cup games. They did not have a single shot on target in their opener against Russia.
- Uruguay have lost just one of their last nine World Cup group games (W5 D3), winning five of their last six.
21 de julio 2018
|Lewis Hamilton explains German GP woes|
|O´Driscoll hails ´Test match animal´ Warburton|
|Spieth relishing prospect of Tiger tussle at Carnoustie|
|Sanches pushing for Bayern second chance - Kovac|
|Put on the Sunday red and enjoy Tiger´s ride regardless of Carnoustie outcome|
|Flawless Spieth takes share of Open lead after Tiger winds back the years|
|PSG´s Tuchel to be patient with World Cup stars Neymar, Mbappe & Cavani|
|Sanchez joins United tour in LA after visa issues|
|Catalans crush Salford to confirm Super League safety|
|Hamilton not giving up despite Hockenheim heartbreak|
|Spieth surges into Open Championship lead|
|Dumoulin is our biggest threat – Froome|
|Sane: Low gave me good reasons for World Cup snub|
|Tiger Woods in the hunt and loving it at The Open|
|Vettel delighted with German GP pole performance|
|Deschamps lauds intelligence of ´extraordinary´ Mbappe|
|Thomas maintains advantage as Fraile powers to stage victory|
|Woods sets clubhouse target, Kisner edges back in front|
|Bayern Munich 3 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Sanches strikes in ICC clash|
|Dost re-signs with Sporting CP after initially rescinding contract|
|Impressive Lions see off Jaguares to seal Waratahs semi|
|I´ll show Mourinho I´m ready, says United´s Pereira|
|Fognini sets up final clash with Gasquet|
|Injury ends Bouchard´s Swiss hopes, Sevastova through in Bucharest|
|That didn´t Work-u...race leader pulls up short of 3000metre finish|
|Prowling Tiger Woods on Open charge as Spieth joins leaders|
|Federer will struggle away from Wimbledon - Henman|
|Hamilton expecting tough Sunday at Hockenheim|
|Spalletti expects Icardi, Perisic to stay at Inter|
|Vettel smashes lap record to take Hockenheim pole after Hamilton woe|
|Warner targets Australia recall after Darwin debut|
|Rose: Open Sunday will be ´interesting´ after 64|
|Hamilton out of German GP qualifying as Mercedes falters|
|Pogba, Mbappe, Griezmann? Deschamps mulls Ballon d´Or contenders|
|Farah concussed on 250th Wests game as Tigers stun Souths|
|Waratahs overrun Highlanders in stunning second-half fightback|
|Rose scores record-equalling 64 to jump into Open contention|
|Moreno hails Liverpool´s recruitment drive as ´top, top players´ arrive|
|AC Milan elect new board with CEO Fassone out|
|Sri Lanka grind sorry South Africa into the Colombo dirt|
|Mina ready to reject offers for Barcelona stay|
|Guardiola tells Sane to use World Cup snub as motivation|
|Golovin´s ex-team-mate Chepchugov drops hint over Chelsea move|
|Reed & Rose make early charges on Carnoustie ´moving day´|
|Sancho ´had a point to prove´ in Dortmund´s win over Manchester City|
|Li hits back at AC Milan owners Elliott as bitter split continues|
|Crusaders cruise past Sharks to book Hurricanes semi-final|
|Rabiot would be a great signing for Barcelona – Xavi|
|JaVale McGee: Lakers are going to be ´one of the most fun teams ever´|
|Dolphins owner Ross: National anthem policy a ´placeholder´|
|Boga leaves Chelsea for Sassuolo|
|Schurrle in talks to leave Borussia Dortmund|
|Guardiola happy with Mahrez and Man City despite loss|
|Dodgers top Brewers in Machado´s debut|
|Raptors GM apologises to DeRozan after Spurs trade|
|Manchester City 0 Borussia Dortmund 1: Gotze spoils Mahrez´s debut in ICC opener|
|United fans keeping De Gea at Old Trafford – Herrera|
|Keita: I turned down Barca and Bayern for Liverpool|
|Merritt stays ahead as rain halts Barbasol Championship|
|Roma had to sell Alisson to Liverpool, says Totti|
|Donald Trump: Kneeling players should be suspended without pay|
|Cardinals´ Carpenter makes history|
|Nationals pair Strasburg, Zimmerman activated from DL|
|Premier League-linked Plattenhardt feels at home at Hertha|
|Johnson expecting tough Granollers challenge|
|Good Luck at last! Colts quarterback fit for training camp|
|Haase humbles Rublev as Cecchinato charges on|
|Benzema hits back at ´crazy´ De Laurentiis over age jibe|
20 de julio 2018
|Leeds Rhinos finally end winless streak in Super League|
|No freaky Friday for Spieth as he bounces back in round two|