Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia: Key Battles

With the South American side widely tipped to claim victory, RealSport look at the players needed for Saudi Arabia to produce a surprise result.

REUTERS/Carl Recine

Saudi Arabia come into this match far from being painted as favourites. Without the weight of expectancy weighing them down, they could even find the underdog tag helping to spur them on. 

A dismal display during their opening match resulted in a mauling at the hands of the tournaments lowest ranked team. With that will come pressure not to capitulate a second successive time though.

By contrast, Uruguay will head into this fixture facing pressure themselves. With much more anticipated from them before the first ball was kicked, even a narrow victory is unlikely to satisfy their critics.

With little widely known about the Saudi Arabian players in the West, we look at three of their key players who can help deliver a shock result. 

  1. 1 Osama Hawsawi vs Luis Suárez

    REUTERS/Marko Djurica

    The Green Falcons' captain plays in the centre of defence and will need to stand tall if his side is to resist Uruguay’s attacks.

    The Al-Hilal defender can bring much experience into the team in what will be his 137th international cap. He’s also expected to line up for this game alongside his brother, Omar, with the task of keeping Luis Suárez quiet for the duration of the game.

    At 34 and 32 years old respectively, they will need to remain quick and alert against the fast-footed Barcelona striker.

    Suarez, however, was very much off the pace against Egypt after a sub-par season - by his standards - in La Liga. Hawsawi, similarly, was extremely poor - as was the entire Saudi defence - in their opener against Russia.

    With Osama Hawsawi announcing earlier this year that he’s “almost finished” and that he would step away from his domestic club this summer, it will require one last push to see him go out on a high. 

  2. 2 Abdullah Otayf vs Rodrigo Bentancur

    REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

    Much is expected of Juventus’ 20-year-old midfielder this summer and in the coming years. He was one of the few Uruguayan players who came away from the win over Egypt with his credibility fairly intact, but there’s still a feeling that he can offer much more in the coming fixtures.

    Uruguay are fully expected to dominate possession in this game and in central midfield, Bentancur will be the player tasked with unpicking the opposition defence.

    Looking to nullify this threat is arguably Saudi Arabia’s most important player, holding midfielder Abdullah Otayf.

    The tough-tackling 25-year-old brings energy to the team and is an effective disruptor in front of his team's defenders.

    Where he often struggles, however, is in possession - a major issues given Saudi's style of football - and he will need work the ball away from dangerous areas if he is to relieve the pressure on the Green Falcons' defence.

  3. 3 Salem Al Dawsari vs Guillermo Varela

    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

    Whilst the Saudi Arabian squad is comprised entirely of players based in their own domestic league, Al Dawsari is one of the three players that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation arranged to send on loan to La Liga clubs.

    He received a limited amount of playing time for Villarreal, a single substitute appearance in which he collected a yellow card, but there is hope that the training sessions will help to mature his game and ensure he reaches his potential.

    Capable of playing anywhere across the frontline, Al Dawsari will be used in his favoured left wing position where he will come up against Peñarol right-back, Varela.

    The defender, who was David Moyes’ first signing at Manchester United, has regained his confidence recently and has been marked out by many as a player to watch in Russia this summer.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 6 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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Andy Dickinson

Yes, I'm old enough to remember standing sections at football grounds,

Yes, the game's transformed almost unrecognisably since then


but I still love it despite all its faults.....