Uruguay lucked out twice in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup. First, they were placed in Group A, along with two lower-quality teams and host nation Russia. But within the group, they were the last team to play Russia, staving off the rowdy atmosphere for as long as possible. When Uruguay lines up against the hosts on Monday, they’ll already have their place in the next round secured.
But that doesn’t mean that their final match will be meaningless. Deadlocked at six points each, Uruguay can win Group A with a victory over the Russians. And at the World Cup, winning the group could greatly increase your chances of making a deep tournament run.
Unfortunately for the teams in Group A, their projected opponents will be difficult regardless of their finishing position. Group A faces off against the winners of Group B, which will be Spain and Portugal. So it seems regardless of where you finish in Group A, you’re going to have a tough time in the next round.
No matter the opposition, Uruguay will be in for a tight battle. They won their first two games by 1-0 margins, so expect tight play in the future rounds as well. Because Spain and Portugal are also tied heading into Monday, it’s difficult to predict exactly when Uruguay will play in the Round of 16.
Team 1A will play Team 2B on June 30th at 2 p.m. Eastern
Team 2A will play Team 1B on July 1st at 10 a.m. Eastern
Uruguay’s defensive style would be tested against either team. Spain has the control and passing to outclass any team, but Uruguay would challenge them in the final third, where they have struggled to finish play. Uruguay and Portugal would be a very tense match, as the teams play similar styles.
Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez acknowledged that while his team is winning games, they haven’t reached their full potential and must do so to continue in the tournament.
“We are aware that there is pressure there and we also believe that in our prior performances, we haven’t fully lived up to our potential,” Tabarez told reporters earlier in the week.
“But we face that with calmness. We have had these situations before. In the Copa America in 2011, it was a similar situation, there were matches where we were far from brilliant. We knew in the first knockout rounds you could not fail there and we had to face Argentina, but we won in the end.”
Uruguay is no stranger to the World Cup, but this early success is something new. It’s the first time they’ve won their first two games since 1954, when they finished fourth. That’s the farthest Uruguay has reached since 1950 when they won the entire tournament. They’ve since finished fourth on three separate occasions.
Past the Round of 16, it’s even more difficult to predict Uruguay’s path. Depending on their finish in Group A, they could be on a completely different side of the bracket. That would mean the difference between playing Group C winner France, or Group D winner Croatia.
After Uruguay finishes group play, we’ll update this post with full Round of 16 match information.