FIFA World Cup 2018: Russia, Uruguay battle for top spot in Group A

first_imgThe lowest-ranked team coming into their own World Cup, Russia have sparkled since the action began — and perhaps the secret to their success is not just their ability on the ball but good old-fashioned industry.No other team has matched the hosts’ Stakhanovite workrate in their opening matches — both of which Russia won by healthy margins — nor even come close when it comes to putting in the hard yards.According to FIFA’s statistics, Russia, who play Uruguay in their final group game on Monday, have, by a startling margin, covered more ground than any other team, with their opening 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia seeing them run a collective 118 kilometres.To put that into context, the second highest distance covered in the first round of matches was 112km by Egypt in their defeat to Uruguay.FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 FULL COVERAGEIn their second match, a 3-1 victory over Egypt, Russia took their total over two games to more than 233km, which, after Friday’s action, was around 8km more than any other two-match team, with workmanlike Australia their nearest challengers.This ferocious industry has been spearheaded by Aleksandr Golovin, who has not only stood out as a shining midfield talent, but also as the most hardworking player at the tournament, covering an impressive 25.15km.FIXTURES | POINTS TABLEAnd Golovin, like Russia’s other players, is not simply accumulating distance by ambling around the pitch.Any doubts that the stats for distance covered provide an accurate picture of effort are dispelled when you look at the figures for the number of sprints made, with Russia again leading the way having completed 824 in their two matches.advertisementThose looking for the source of Argentina’s struggles at this tournament might be interested to see that the South Americans completed only 604 sprints in their draw with Iceland and defeat to Croatia.Comedian, who mocked Russian team before World Cup, calls them heroes nowThis may go some way towards explaining how a Russian team, who had won just one of their last nine matches at previous tournaments and none of their last seven warmup games, have now breezed into the knockouts with a game to spare.Undoubtedly fuelled by the adrenaline that comes from being roared on by a passionate home crowd, Russia face Uruguay at the Samara Arena to decide who will finish top of Group A, which carries the incentive of avoiding the victors in Group B.With Uruguay having edged into the last 16 with narrow 1-0 victories over Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the impressive Russians will be keen to finish the group with a perfect record.Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez knows his side have yet to hit top gear at the World Cup but warned anyone who is thinking of writing them off to remember their run to the Copa America title in 2011.Despite the difficulties they had in their opening matches, Uruguay have won their first two games of a World Cup tournament for the first time since 1954 and stand one win away from topping the group.Russia, however, boast a far superior goal difference, having crushed Saudi Arabia 5-0 and made light work of Egypt in a 3-1 win, meaning only victory will see Uruguay finish above the hosts and avoid the winners of Group B in the process.Egypt, Saudi Arabia look to avoid last-place finishSaudi Arabia and Egypt will try to avoid finishing last in Group A as they bow out of the World Cup, a disappointing end to the tournament in particular for Egypt and their usually prolific striker Mohamed Salah. Egypt have lost both their opening matches (Reuters Photo)Both teams lost their first two games and the only thing they can salvage in the Volgograd Arena is the chance not to finish bottom of their group.For Saudi Arabia, the match also offers the possibility of a first goal in the tournament in Russia.Egypt, making their first World Cup appearance since 1990, had been tipped to advance into the knockout rounds after looking strong in the qualifiers.But they narrowly lost to 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening match, which Salah missed as he recovered from his Champions League final injury with Liverpool. They then went down 3-1 to hosts Russia.Salah has been pivotal to Egypt, scoring 71 percent of the team’s goals during qualification and claiming their solitary strike of the tournament so far against the Russians.Despite scoring from the penalty spot, Salah looked like he was still feeling the effects of his injured shoulder in that game.advertisementEgyptian Football Association (EFA) president Hany Abo Rida was quoted by local media as saying that Salah would not be leaving the World Cup early despite his team’s elimination.While there’s little at stake for the two countries in Monday’s match, Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary will be desperate to be on the field in order to enter the World Cup record books as the oldest player to compete at the finals.The 45-year-old goalkeeper was left out of the previous two games and coach Hector Cuper must decide whether to hand him the gloves for what will surely be his last appearance at the tournament.last_img

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