Uruguay punish sluggish Russia to top Group A

Uruguay's Luis Suarez and Uruguay's Martin Caceres arrive to Uruguay's official training on the eve of the group A match between Russia and Uruguay at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Samara Arena in Samara Russia Sunday

Uruguay held a commanding 2-0 halftime lead over World Cup hosts Russian Federation in the battle to top Group A on Monday courtesy of a Luis Suarez free kick and a Denis Cheryshev own goal.

To compound Russia's problems, Smolnikov was sent off after scything down Laxalt just eight minutes after his first booking.

Hosts Russia and their expectant fans were given a brutal reality check on Monday when Uruguay exposed the weaknesses in the side that had been papered over in the uplifting victories over Egypt and Saudi Arabia in World Cup Group A.

Having replaced Cheryshev with Mario Fernandes in the immediate aftermath of Smolnikov's premature departure, Russian Federation boss Stanislav Cherchesov sent on midfielder Daler Kuziaev for Yuri Gazinsky at the break and saw his team rally.

That was, in truth, virtually that. The last act was for Cavani to get his goal, converting a rebound from a Diego Godin header.

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It wasn't the most exciting match, but in typical German fashion Die Mannschaft got the job done and progressed to the final. His goal was originally ruled offsides, but was overturned after a second look from the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR).

With an eye on the next game, Cheryshev - easily Russia's best player on the pitch - was replaced by defender Mario Fernandes, who did offer some stability to the defence. "When they feel comfortable or at home, they score goals".

At Volgograd, the oldest person to play in a World Cup match gave up a pair of goals Monday, as Saudi Arabia beat Egypt 2-1 in the other Group A match between teams that had already been eliminated. This is the farthest Russian Federation has gone at the World Cup in the post-Soviet era. Not because of selfishness, but because they contribute a lot.

The world Cup was held the matches of the final, the third round in group A.

Uruguay have finished as first round group winners for the fifth time, having done so previously in 1930, 1950, 1954 and 2010.

There was plenty of noise from the stands - so Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera will have had many quieter games in terms of volume - but he had little work to do as he became his country's all-time leading appearance maker at the World Cup. Tomorrow's match will decide on the victor of their Group A, which also enrolls the teams from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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Luis Suarez's free kick delivery had his inimitable style and personality stamped all over it.

There was also noticeably more control in midfield and, on his 21st birthday, a promising performance from the young Juventus playmaker Rodrigo Bentancur, who was unlucky not to score and looked composed throughout.

90' GOAL! Uruguay 3-0 Russia: There's the goal Cavani has been desperate for all afternoon! His finish was simple, although he showed determination to reach the ball with Suarez also lurking, and certainly came as a relief.

Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics.

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