Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia: Luis Suarez's record, Oscar Tabarez's cautiousness and a midfield gone missing

Jack Watson

Uruguay and hosts Russia are the first teams to qualify for the round of 16 in the World Cup following Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Luis Suarez marked his 100th Uruguay cap with a typical poacher’s finish in the 23rd minute when he converted Carlos Sanchez’s corner into a vacant net with Mohammed Al-Owais left ruing his decision to try and catch the cross.

Uruguay face Russia on Monday in the final game of Group A which will determine who qualifies as group winners.

Here are five things we learned at the Rostov Arena:

1. Luis Suarez makes up for lacklustre performance

After failing to score against Egypt in Uruguay’s opening game, Suarez looked much fresher and opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. He positioned himself well in the box and made the most of Al-Owais’ failed catch to score his 52nd, and perhaps simplest, goal.

The Barcelona forward is his country's joint-second highest World Cup scorer also became the first player to score in three different World Cups for Uruguay.

While it was a dull attacking performance, Suarez looked lively throughout and appears to be easing his way into the tournament. Russia are next in his sights and he will be determined to add to his tally in an attempt to try and catch Cristiano Ronaldo’s four goals.

Uruguay's Luis Suarez scores the opening goal (AP)

2. Saudi Arabia avoid becoming worst ever World Cup team

When Russia easily put five past Saudi Arabia in the opening game of the tournament, there was great anticipation that Suarez and Mohamed Salah could run riot against the group’s whipping boys.

South Korea’s 1954 team lost their two group games and conceded a record 16 goals, and the Green Falcons looked like they could eclipse that record after their poor start, but an improved performance against Uruguay suggests they will avoid the unwanted title of worst ever World Cup team.

Saudi Arabia attempted to play their way into the game and unleashed a couple of attempts on goal, but ultimately failed to trouble their opposition.

3. Uruguay exposed in midfield

In tournaments gone by Uruguay’s midfield were as robust as they come, very little would get past it. A new wave of more technically gifted individuals has seen a shift away from their strong tackling and ruthless core, which was exposed as being a little soft against Saudi Arabia.

Rodrigo Bentancur, 20, and Matias Vecino, 26, started in the middle of the midfield in a 4-4-2 system which allowed Saudi Arabia to easily play through the lines.

Saudi Arabia’s 4-2-3-1 appeared to be the perfect match for Uruguay’s system and the underdogs were moving the ball quickly in the opening exchanges which caused problems for the South American side.

Uruguay are likely to face Spain or Portugal in the Round of 16 and could be pressed into altering their system to deal with a more capable opposition. After leaving it late against Egypt and labouring to another 1-0 win, at present, Uruguay look far from a side capable of big things this summer.

Matias Vecino battles for the ball (Getty Images)

4. Is Oscar Tabarez Diego Simeone in disguise?

Playing 4-4-2 with Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez in defence is a page taken straight out of Atletico Madrid manager Digeo Simone’s book.

Watching Uruguay is just like seeing the Europa League Champions in action. They sit tight, give very little away and take their chances, it’s not easy on the eye but it is very effective.

5. Has the exciting World Cup bubble burst?

Almost a week into the World Cup, and the b-word is being banded around. Boring.

While there were flashes of action, the majority of this game passed by without many exciting moments. It lacked tempo and enthusiasm as Uruguay seemed happy to sit on their early lead without being too adventurous about scoring a second.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, were trying to make a game of it but their inferior quality meant anything they tried often failed come off. Passes were misplaced, shots were wayward and attacking runs were quickly thwarted.