Dubai: Luiz Suarez celebrated his 100th game for Uruguay with the matchwinner as they held off an improved Saudi Arabia 1-0 at Rostov-on-Don to qualify for the second round from Group A, taking hosts Russia along with them, on Wednesday.
Both Uruguay and Russia have now picked up full points from their first two matches, which confirmed the exits of both Arab teams from this region - Saudis and Egypt.
The two teams will play for pride in their last group fixture on Monday.
The wily Suarez scored in the 23rd minute, flicking in a corner from Carlos Sanchez to put his name in the scorers’ list for ‘La Celeste.’
The Saudis fought hard for an equalizer with winger Hatan Bahbri leading counterattacks but the South Americans controlled the game without any fuss and maintained pressure on Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais.
Uruguayan coach Oscar Tabarez fell back on experience when he named Cristian Rodriguez (32) and Carlos Sanchez (33) in the starting line-up with wingers Giorgian De Arrascaeta and Nahitan Nandez sliding to the substitutes’ bench.
Still reeling from a 5-0 opening loss to Russia, Saudi Arabia switched goalkeepers to start with Alowais but stuck with the rest of their line-up from the opener.
The Arab team started with a lone striker upfront and looked more composed than the first game, organising themselves better in the midfield with Salman Alfaraz playing the holding midfielder’s role and trying to switch action to either flanks.
They made a few inroads early on with Fahad Almuwallad launching into a strong run and finding one of his teammates in the clear on the right.
Suarez, whose patchy form in their opener was a matter of concern, did precious little until the goal came through. In the early minutes, the Barcelona striker’s shot from close range after being fed by Rodriguez struck a defender and went out.
The 31-year-old has had a chequered World Cup past so far after his 2010 quarter final handball against Ghana and his biting of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini four years ago, but has now scored six goals at the showpiece tournament in his career.