Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their first goal in Moscow, Russia, June 20 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their first goal in Moscow, Russia, June 20 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Moscow — Uruguay booked their place in the World Cup knockout stage with Russia on Wednesday, as Luis Suarez scored the winner on his 100th international appearance in a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Rostov-on-Don.

The South Americans take on the hosts in their final Group A match on June 25 with top spot on the line, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been eliminated after both suffered back-to-back defeats.

Russia and Uruguay will face one of the top two from Group B in the last 16 — either Portugal, Spain or Iran.

The 31-year-old Suarez, whose previous two World Cups both ended in bans after his infamous 2010 handball against Ghana and bite on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini four years later, took advantage of a goalkeeping error by Mohammed Al-Owais to put Uruguay ahead midway through the first half.

Oscar Tabarez’s side missed plenty of opportunities to add further goals, but a toothless Saudi outfit never seriously looked like snatching a point.

In Wednesday’s first match Portugal inexplicably lost control of the game despite managing to beat Morocco 1-0 in their Group B match and were lucky not to get themselves in more trouble, coach Fernando Santos said.

The European champions took the lead in the fourth minute when Cristiano Ronaldo charged into the box to bury his header and become Europe’s top international scorer with 85 goals. But they instantly eased off and offered little else in terms of attacking football for the rest of the match.

Instead it was Morocco, who were the more aggressive side, missing half a dozen clear scoring chances and the Portuguese conceding far too much space.

"We have to look at this and we have to talk about it," Portugal coach Santos said. "We lost control of the game, we misplaced a lot of passes, we lost confidence. I am not happy with the performance of my team. It was inexplicable.

"Nothing is finished yet. We have to play a very difficult game against Iran and we want to top the group," he added.

Goalkeeper Rui Patricio was kept busy by the North Africans and helped Portugal earn the three points.

Morocco failed to convert their chances and are pointless, becoming the first team to be eliminated from the tournament with a game left.

"There was no intensity in our game. We have players with a lot of skills and speed. We started well but then we were put under pressure and it was difficult," Santos said.

"As with the game against Spain, after 10 to 15 minutes we lost control and possession."

But Santos again could count on Ronaldo to carry them to victory. "Cristiano is like port wine. He knows how to refine his capacity and age well. He is a constantly evolving contrary to regular players," said the coach.

Reuters

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