The Russian bubble has burst. Following impressive wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the first two matchdays of their own World Cup, the hosts were even mentioned by some as potential winners of the tournament.
However, Uruguay’s impressive 3-0 win on Monday, which ensured they finished top of Group A, showed that the South Americans are potential darkhorses themselves to go all the way.
Strikes from Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and a Denis Cheryshev own goal proved decisive on the day. The Barcelona man opened the scoring with a stunning free-kick on the 10 minute mark before Diego Laxalt's deflected shot following a corner made it 2-0, looping in past Igor Akinfeev off Cheryshev. Cavani then fired in a third in the last minute against the 10-men hosts, who had Igor Smolnikov sent off.
However, it was two players we may see in the Premier League next season who really caught the eye.
Lucas Torreira is expected to join Arsenal from Sampdoria, while Inter’s Matias Vecino is liked by Chelsea, and both ran the show in midfield alongside Juventus’ excellent Rodrigo Bentancur.
The diminutive Torreira sat deep in a midfield diamond and showed off his passing range despite constant pressing from Russia. His composure on the ball and first touch was on show and will have impressed potential new manager Unai Emery.
The 22-year-old is clearly ready for an elite club move and was on free-kick and corner duty for the two-time World Cup winners in the Samara Stadium.
The energetic Vecino is also a Premier League target, and Chelsea will be hoping to bring him in for Antonio Conte’s probable successor, Maurizio Sarri.
Vecino played on the left of the diamond, covered lots of ground and, like Torreira, was also excellent in his use of the ball. The Inter man is not the first Uruguay player to have been targeted by Chelsea in recent times, as Laxalt was also wanted by Conte in the summer of 2016.
Uruguay have not won the World Cup for 68 years but neither Spain nor Portugal will want to play them in the round of 16, increasing the importance of the Iberian pair in finishing top of Group B.
Some star players will return for the knockouts for the Uruguayans, including rested Atletico Madrid star Jose Gimenez. This means that a miserly defence will be at full strength having not conceded a goal in the group stage.
For Russia, the loss is a wake-up call. They exceeded all expectations in their first two matches but, having rested a few players against Uruguay – including the brilliant Aleksandr Golovin – they suddenly look very beatable again.