Uruguay bank on experience as Saudis cling to World Cup dream (Preview)

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Rostov-on-Don (Russia), June 19 (IANS) Experience will be the key when Uruguay look to seal their place in the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup against Saudi Arabia here on Wednesday.

Uruguay’s 1-0 win against Egypt in their opening match means beating Saudi Arabia would leave Uruguay with six points and allow them to book their place in the knockout phase as long as Egypt does not beat Russia on Tuesday, reports Xinhua news agency.

Uruguay disappointed against a rugged Egypt side in their first game, needing a late header from Jose Gimenez to seal the win and veteran coach Oscar Tavarez is expected to make changes with Carlos Sanchez and ‘Cebolla’ Rodriguez expected to start.

Rodriguez is an excellent provider, while Sanchez is a box-to-box midfielder with a habit of getting into the rival penalty area at the right time, and the pair should give more punch to a side which struggled to create chances against Egypt as Luis Suarez looked heavy and off the pace.

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As well as boosting his options in front of goal, Tavarez’s changes mean he will have seven players aged 30 or more in his starting 11 ( Fernando Muslera (32), Diego Godin (32), Martin Caceres (31), Carlos Sanchez (33), Cristian Rodriguez (32), Luis Suarez (31) y Edinson Cavani (31)); and in theory Uruguay should be too strong for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia landed here after a frightening journey in which one of the engines on the aircraft which flew them in from Saint Petersburg caught fire.

The Saudi players were strongly criticised for their performance in their 0-5 defeat to Russia in their opening match in the World Cup, with one top official accusing them of making “just 5 percent effort.”

Saudi Arabia enjoyed 60 percent possession against Russia but failed to have a single shot on target and were pulled apart on the break. It remains to be seen whether this was due to ‘stage fright’ caused by meeting the pumped-up hosts (and their fervent fans) in the first game of the tournament, or from a lack of quality and concentration.

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Coach Pizzi now has the task of ensuring his players focus on a game where anything other than a win will mean they suffer the ignominy of being one of the first teams to be knocked out of the tournament. And after becoming Saudi Arabia’s third first team coach in a three-month spell when he was appointed in November last year, he also knows what the price of failure is likely to be.

–IANS

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