Saudi Arabia 0-1 Uruguay
(2018 World Cup Group A)
20th June 2018
It is difficult to come up with anything positive to say about this one – for it was a real pig of a match. And I can remember sitting thinking, “Why the fuck have I travelled a quarter of the way across the globe to watch this shit?” Sometimes you just draw a short straw, I suppose.
Following Russia's victory over Egypt the previous evening, it meant if Uruguay wished to go into their final group game against their hosts in pole position (i.e. requiring only a draw to top Group A), they would require at least a six-goal win here. Now anyone who saw the Saudi's abject capitulation against Russia in the opening match of the tournament may have felt such a task to be not insurmountable. Although, I would suggest little in Uruguay's own turgid opening display suggested such a thing to be even remotely likely.
In the event Uruguay scored fairly early on in this one; Luis SUAREZ tapping in on 23 mins, after Saudi 'keeper Mohammed Al Owais had ineffectually flapped at a corner-kick. The South Americans more or less took out their pipe and slippers thereafter, relatively safe in the knowledge that their opponents had little in their arsenal to trouble them.
How true, for the Saudi's were dreadfully conservative throughout, sticking to a rigid 4-2-3-1 even when tournament elimination was staring them in the face. During set pieces, and at their occasional corner-kicks they would leave three, sometimes four players back, marking no-one. I can even recall one counter-attack by Saudi Arabia which ended with an aimless cross into a Uruguay box devoid of any white shirts. Perhaps hoping for an own-goal?
As for Uruguay they did enough to win this match, but little more. The impressive Diego Godin was his usual rock in the centre of the defence, although in all honesty he was rarely tested.
His midfield colleagues (in particular, the youthful-looking Rodrigo Bentancur) took a grip on midfield they never relinquished, whilst up front Suarez and his familiar Edinson Cavani each did what they always do – whine and moan, whilst throwing themselves writhing to the turf at half and least excuses. Now I am sure that in their personal lives both these chaps are amiable and pleasant individuals who love both their mums and their pets. But on a football pitch both come across as thoroughly unlikeable brats.
The dullness of the match was never better demonstrated than when the Rostov Arena frequently echoed to the chant of “Rush-ee-ah, Rush-ee-ah”, as the locals made their displeasure clear. Plus Mexican Waves – two simultaneously, at times – meandered around the stadium seemingly endlessly, as the crowd desperately attempted to glean a modicum of entertainment from the day.
Rostov-on-Don, I learned recently on the Frankie (Boyle) Goes to Russia TV documentary, is twinned with Glasgow. Although I saw precious little similarity between the two cities in the areas of Rostov I visited. I have never witnessed folks sunbathing on the banks of the Clyde, for example.
|There is nothing quite like this in Glasgow.|
|The stadium lies on the south bank of the Riven Don, accessed from the city centre via the Voroshilovskiy Bridge|
|The Rostov Arena.|
|Panorama of The Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don|
|Before the match we had a countdown of the 10 Best World Cup goals. Archie Gemmill's versus Holland was in there.|
It did make me wonder if I would live to see Scotland score another at a World Cup.
|A close up of the funny spider cameras thingy.|
|I found this unfurling of the competing nations' flags strangely moving.|
Should I ever see a saltire being presented in such a manner at a World Cup, I would probably lose it.
|Uruguay v Saudi Arabia (2018 World Cup)|
|L-R: Luis suarez, Edinson Cavani, Cristian Rodriguez, Carlos Sanchez.|
|There were very few Saudi fans in the ground, this pocket being most vociferous.|
|There was a slim tier of red (presumably hospitality) seats, very few of which were occupied|
|Cavani breaks a leg, or perhaps just his sock has fallen down a touch.|
|Suarez about to be assaulted.|
|I thought it really rather considerate of Vladimir Putin to drop in to see how his tournament was going.|
|Panorama of Rostov Arena.|
|The Rostov Arena lit up|