Uruguay take nothing for granted against chastened Saudis

Image: Soccer Football – World Cup – Group A – Egypt vs Uruguay – Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia – June 15, 2018 Uruguay’s Jose Gimenez celebrates with team mates after scoring their first goal REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

By Andrew Cawthorne

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (Reuters) – After Uruguay’s first winning start at a World Cup in nearly half a century and Saudi Arabia’s disastrous opener, the South Americans are guarding against complacency before Wednesday’s second Group A clash.

Despite their elation at beating Egypt 1-0 with a late winner to break a 48-year curse of failing to win a World Cup finals opener, Uruguay have been straight back to training and detailed tactical work at their camp outside Nizhny Novgorod.

“We saw Saudi Arabia’s debut. It was tough for them,” said midfielder Carlos Sanchez of the Saudis’ surprise 5-0 thrashing by hosts Russia.

“But Saudi Arabia are still strong. We’re not resting on our laurels. We’re thinking about ourselves, how to improve. You win games on the little details,” added Sanchez, who gave the cross for Jose Gimenez’ 89th-minute header against Egypt on Friday.

Defender Guillermo Varela, who like Sanchez made his World Cup debut for the senior team on Friday, agreed it was crucial for Uruguay not to become cocky as favourites to win their group, especially given a tricky last game against the hosts.

“Russia have surprised everyone. But we’re only focussed on the Saudis right now. They’re good too and it’s up to us to attack their weak points,” he said after a sun-kissed training session at a sports centre by woodland near the Volga river.

Looking relaxed and contented at a news conference, the Uruguay players dismissed concerns about the toll on them from gruelling flights from South America and around Russia.

“Every team is flying a lot. You just rest well and prepare for the next game, we’re fine,” said Varela, whose team has travelled one of the furthest distances for the World Cup.

Nor were there any worries over the form of striker Luis Suarez, who uncharacteristically fluffed several chances against Egypt. “He’s fine. He couldn’t score, but we had someone else who did! I’m just grateful to be alongside Luis,” Varela said.

Right now, Uruguay have bragging rights in South America, over perennial rivals Argentina who only managed a 1-1 draw with Iceland, and Peru who lost to Denmark. But again, the Uruguayans were keeping their feet well on the ground.

“It’s a World Cup. All the teams are good. Some great teams are finding it hard to win. Look at France, they also found it difficult,” Sanchez said, of France’s hard-fought – some would say lucky – 2-1 win over Australia.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Copyright 2018 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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