Why Uruguay Might Play It Safe vs. Russia on Monday
Uruguay vs. Russia, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
- Uruguay +160
- Russia +206
- Draw +204
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This match mostly doesn’t matter. Both teams have already qualified for the knockout stages. And while winning the group is important, there’s plenty of uncertainty about the draw ahead for these two countries.
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The winner will play the runner-up of Group B, while the loser plays Group B’s winner. Spain is likely to win Group B and is certainly a more challenging prospective opponent than either Portugal or Iran, but the Spanish side of the bracket also looks set to be easier.
When the future is that murky, most teams just end up not worrying too much about it and trying to win. Over two games, Russia have been a better side than Uruguay. They’ve taken apart Saudi Arabia and Egypt, while Uruguay struggled to grind them down. Russia’s single greatest trait so far has been their ability to pour it on late and pad their lead. They’ve scored eight goals, and five of them have come after the 59th minute.
Uruguay are a very strong defensive side, which is something Russia haven’t had to cope with yet. Don’t expect the same level of outright dominance that Russia have put up so far, but they should still be unexpectedly fresh in the dying minutes.
On the other side, it might make sense for Uruguay to look to preserve the legs of one, or both, of their strikers, since Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are both on the wrong side of 30. Uruguay are, first and foremost, an extremely practical team. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them accept a draw or narrow loss to give themselves more of a shot when the knockout round begins.