Uruguay, once again, were not convincing. Many expected a rout against a flimsy Saudi Arabia side, but that was far from the case. Luis Suarez’s 23rd minute goal was all that separated the teams, although Uruguay never looked in danger of letting the result slip.
Óscar Tabárez, though he was expected to field a more expansive side at this year’s tournament, appears content to secure a passage through to the knockout stages with a series of dour 1-0 wins.
Absolutely no risks were taken against Saudi Arabia. Had they wanted to, Uruguay could likely have scored more, but it quickly became evident that they were not concerned with boosting their goal difference. A win, and the resultant qualification, was all that mattered.
That did not make for a great spectacle, but by now it is to be expected when watching Uruguay. We can only hope, for the sake of the millions of viewers, that they avoid Fernando Santos’ equally dour Portugal in the last-16.
Here are five things we learned from Uruguay’s narrow win over Saudi Arabia.
1 Suarez finds his feet
It would have been difficult for Luis Suarez to not improve on his first display at this World Cup: an abysmal showing against Egypt in which almost everything he tried failed.
Clearly, he wanted to make amends on Wednesday. He resembled more closely the player who has scored so prolifically for Barcelona, and before that Liverpool, and got the crucial opening goal.
It was not an easy finish. The corner evaded everyone and fell at his feet with the goal open, but it required anticipation and excellent timing.
Suarez was quiet after his goal, though it was an improvement on the disastrous performance in his previous outing. He will be aware, however, that further improvement is needed if he is to make an impact on the tournament.
2 Saudi Arabia show some resilience
Saudi Arabia will take some pride from this performance. The same issues were present as against Russia, but they did not collapse in the manner of their heavy defeat against the hosts.
They earned plaudits, too, for their neat interplay in midfield. Phil Neville, in commentary for the BBC, went as far as to say that "In a 40 by 40 square, there is no better team in the World Cup than Saudi Arabia".
Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but their technical proficiency was impressive nevertheless.
Defensive organisation was again almost completely absent - although Uruguay did not feel the need to exploit it - and there was no threat in the final third.
Saudi Arabia have never won a game at the World Cup: in 12 matches they have drawn two and lost ten. They have only scored a goal in three of those games. That trend, it seems, is set to continue.
3 Impervious Godin & Gimenez could take Uruguay far
Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez were, as always, unerringly focused at the back for Uruguay. The Atletico Madrid duo did not allow Saudi Arabia's forwards much more than a glimpse of Fernando Muslera's goal.
The suggestion before the tournament began was that Uruguay would rely on the goals of Suarez and Edinson Cavani if they were to reach the latter stages. But it appears that their most important players occupy the other end of the pitch.
The way in which Uruguay are set up - a rigid 4-4-2 system in which passing triangles are difficult to find - is not conducive to flowing, fluid football. And it is clear, particularly after the Saudi Arabia win, that Tabárez intends to proceed with caution.
Uruguay will need Godin and Gimenez at their impassable, unscrupulous best. If they are not, the apparent lack of creativity, or indeed any attacking intent, in the side could prove a terminal problem.
4 Goalkeeper problems for Saudi Arabia
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Saudi Arabia moved on to their second goalkeeper of the World Cup against Uruguay, and by the time they play Egypt a third could feature.
Mohammed Al-Owais was brought in for Abdullah Al-Mayouf, after the latter conceded five in defeat by hosts Russia.
But Al-Owais did not always convince. He conceded considerably fewer goals, but the one he let in appeared avoidable. Had he not vacated his line in search of the ball and missed it completely, Suarez would not have been able to sweep into an empty net.
Juan Antonio Pizzi, Saudi Arabia's coach, might consider changing his goalkeeper again for the final game, a dead rubber against Egypt. What's the worst that can happen?
5 Uruguay's midfield yet to convince
There was optimism around Uruguay's midfield prior to the World Cup's start. It appeared refreshed, invigorated by an introduction of youth and energy. Rodrigo Bentancur and Matías Vecino were brought in by Tabárez: two creative, ball playing midfielders.
It seemed the rugged, workmanlike Uruguay of old was making way for a new, more expansive approach.
But that has not been the case thus far. Against Egypt, in the opening game, and then Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, both Bentancur and Vecino seemed restricted. Their performances have been flat and uninspiring, but it is perhaps due to the system in which they are used.
The rigidity, the lack of movement, does not make it easy for the midfielders. There is a disconnect between the three sections of the team: defence, midfield and attack. This will need to be addressed when Uruguay face stronger opposition.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 7 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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