World Cup Group A: If Russia put five on the Saudis, how many will Uruguay bag?
Uruguay and Saudi Arabia meet for the third time and, surprisingly, the Green Falcons are yet to lose against La Celeste with one draw in 2014 and a win in 2002. The stakes are much higher at Rostov Arena, however. The South Americans can book passage to the Round of 16 with a win by joining hosts Russia on uncatchable six points.
After ceding five to Russia in their debut, Juan Antonio Pizzi's side must be more than desperate to keep their dream alive. Both the team and the manager are under heavy criticism. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was not pleased to have to shake hands with Vladimir Putin so many times. Another loss will eliminate them from the competition. A draw leaves them three points behind Uruguay with only one to play. Winning is the only positive option. To do so, they must improve massively.
FIFA Ranking: 14th
Uruguay come off a win in their World Cup opener with Egypt thanks to a late second-half goal by Jose Maria Gimenez, but their overall performance was far from convincing. Their biggest names, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, failed to make an impact. Will they appear this time?
Winning against the Pharaohs was a step in the right direction and Saudi Arabia are by far the worst team in the group, although Uruguay should not take them for granted. They know a win will put them in the next round.
La Celeste are fully fit. Manager Oscar Washington Tabarez has no absentees or doubts. The venerable tactician should field his best XI for this one.
Predicted starting XI: Muslera; Varela, Godin, Gimenez, Caceres; Nandez, Vecino, Bentacur, De Arrascaeta; Cavani, Suarez
FIFA Ranking: 67th
Saudi Arabia must raise their game significantly. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men were drastically overmatched on both ends of the pitch for all but the first ten minutes against Russia.
Pizzi can only pull it off with smoke and mirrors. The Saudis don't feature many experienced players and lack quality. Knowing the Argentine, he will try to attack Uruguay, but he should not give away too much space. The strategy did not work out against Russia. It is not going to work against Uruguay.
For what it's worth, his squad is at full strength. There is the possibility for change even though recent reports indicate Pizzi will stand pat. When you ship five goals, how can you not make adjustments?
Predicted starting XI: Al-Manouf; Al-Burayk, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani; Al-Shehri, Otayf, Al-Faraj, Al-Jassim, Al-Dawsari; Al-Sahlawi
Uruguay should come away with the win. La Celeste are the better side. They were a bit unlucky against Egypt in the final third, which should change in the second game considering how poor Saudi Arabia's defence looked in the opener against Russia. Expect another lopsided score.