Another round-up from the 2018 World Cup in Russia that sees the action in Group A coming to a close with Uruguay battering the host nation to win the group.
When David Seaman saved Miguel Nadal’s spot-kick to send England into the semi-finals of Euro 96, I strode towards my front door, arms in the air, a snarl on my face, crunched can of Bow in my right hand, and I kicked at the hole through it.
I stopped drinking in 2009.
As you can see, it made me a little loopy.
I wasn’t the only one who walked around thinking he could rip phone books in half that summer. It was the first time in most’s lifetime that England had hosted a major tournament, a travesty that exists today.
I lived in Wales, a place where the people welcomed the English with about as much love as an Allied War plane meeting a Focke-Wulf 190 in the clouds above Dresden. And yet, English flags still waved from windows, and petrol stations handed out red roses instead of leeks.
There was an intangible feelgood in the air.
Managers allowed you to watch the games during office hours.
Wives and girlfriends allowed you to behave like a cock.
It was great.
And right now, in Russia, 144 million people are feeling the same baking apple like buzz.
Russia v Uruguay: For All The Marbles
The host nation entertained Uruguay at the Samara Arena for the rights to be crowned Group A Winners.
On six occasions, the host nation has won the World Cup (1998 – France the last time), and South Africa excepted, the hosts always put in a good showing (think, 2002 and South Korea making the semi-finals).
The Russian faithful had high hopes after winning both of their opening matches scoring eight and conceding only one in comfortable wins against Saudi Arabia and Egpyt.
Uruguay, on the other hand, had begun quietly effective, also beating the Saudis and the Egyptians, albeit by a single goal on each occasion. But the bookies were sure this game would go the way of the two-time champions, and they were on the money as usual.
If you can peek through the hype of Russia’s first two games, you will see a trail of used toilet paper extending to a run of seven games without a win. They entered the competition as the lowest ranked side (#70), and without the much-needed oomph of a qualification campaign.
Uruguay finished second in their qualifying group behind Brazil, and went into their Group A decider against Stanislav Cherchesov’s side, having won five games on the spin, and fielding a front two of Luis Suárez and Edison Cavani.
It didn’t take long for Uruguay to remind the Russians who was going to boss this one. Suárez drilled a low free-kick into the bottom corner of the net, although question marks flew into the sky after the Uruguayans made space in the wall by barging the Russian bricks to the floor.
Brilliance, followed by luck, when in the 23rd minute a long distance strike from Diego Laxalt hit Denis Cheryshev and deflected over Igor Akifneev to make it two-nil. It was the third goal Akifneev had conceded at the World Cup without yet making a save. It was also the sixth own goal of the competition, pulling level on points with France 98.
The game was over as a spectacle in the 36th minute when the referee sent Igor Smolnikov to the stands after a second bookable offence. The icing on the South American cake would have been an Edison Cavani goal, and it came in the 90th minute when the Paris St Germain striker scored from close range.
Uruguay will face the European Champions Portugal in the Round of 16. The Russians face a dodgy looking Spanish side.
In the group’s other game, Saudi Arabia came from behind to beat Egypt 2-1, but you care more about finding an implement to clean your nails than that result.
Group A Table
1. Uruguay – 9
2. Russia – 6
3. Saudi Arabia – 3
4. Egypt – 0
World Cup Winners
Uruguay and Russia Odds
Uruguay v Portugal
Uruguay – 9/5
Portugal – 2/1
Draw – 2/1
Russia v Spain
Russia – 11/2
Spain – 13/20
Draw – 14/5
To Win The World Cup