Uruguay will up their game in next round, says Tabarez

ROSTOV • Uruguay's uninspired win against Saudi Arabia may not have been "fun" for fans, but coach Oscar Tabarez vowed that the two-time champions will rise to the challenge in the last 16.

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez marked his 100th international cap by sending Uruguay into the knockout phase and eliminating Saudi Arabia with a 1-0 win. But fears remain that Suarez, 31, is not in top form while fellow striker Edinson Cavani wasted numerous chances against the Saudis, including one in the 14th minute when he skied a half-volley over the bar.

"The only thing that surprised me was the low level of my team in the first half - we were very far from our usual level, and you could say that's because Saudi Arabia made it hard for us," Tabarez told reporters.

That performance followed their narrow 1-0 win over Egypt in their opener, thanks to an 89th-minute header by Jose Gimenez.

"These games might not be fun for fans to watch," Tabarez conceded. "We want to manage our matches better and have more goal-scoring opportunities."

Uruguay will take on either Spain, Portugal or Iran in the next round and Suarez agreed they have to up their game.

  • 1954 

    The last time Uruguay won their first two World Cup games was at the 1954 edition in Switzerland.

"We are not fully satisfied with how we are playing at this World Cup," he said. "We have achieved a good result and have got past the group, but there are still some things we need to improve on."

Saudi Arabia are heading home after their dead rubber with Egypt on Monday, but coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said his side had recovered their dignity with a better performance compared with their opener.

The 5-0 thrashing they received from hosts Russia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament at No. 70, had Saudi Arabia entering the conversation about the worst World Cup teams ever, alongside Zaire's class of 1974 and El Salvador's 1982 side. Those teams lost all three games with goal differences of -14 and -12 respectively.

"The difference between this display and the first game was massive, the change was obvious," said Pizzi, who admitted he was "ashamed" after the opening rout.

"It gives us tranquillity for the future for the months ahead."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Uruguay will up their game in next round, says Tabarez'. Subscribe