Luis Suarez put both Uruguay and host Russia into the second round of the World Cup while eliminating Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the same time.
Suarez scored the winning goal in his 100th international appearance for Uruguay, knocking in a corner kick from Carlos Sanchez in the 23rd minute to give the two-time champions a 1-0 victory over the Saudis on Wednesday.
It was the Barcelona striker’s 52nd goal for his country in that century of matches.
“None of the games at the World Cup are easy to win,” Suarez said. “You can never be relaxed.”
Uruguay and Russia both have six points from their opening two matches, putting them into the round of 16. They will face each other on Monday in Samara with first place in Group A on the line.
“We need to fine-tune some things, but we are more than proud because for three World Cups in a row we have advanced to the knockout round, so we want to enjoy this beautiful moment,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said.
Besides scoring, Suarez led his team with a hard-working performance. He fell back to defend and raced forward alongside Edinson Cavani on the counterattack.
Cavani nearly made it 2-0 on a solo run through the opposing defense but his attempt was blocked by Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais.
Facing elimination, the Saudis fought hard for a goal with Hatan Bahmi getting several early chances. But they were outmatched by the Uruguayan defense and were under regular threat from Suarez and Cavani.
Saudi Arabia also had to play most of the match without trusted midfielder Taisser Aljassam, who limped off before halftime with an injury after lunging forward for a challenge.
Uruguay has now reached the second round in three straight World Cups under the 71-year-old Tabarez. The 1930 and 1950 champions reached the semifinals in 2010.
“We do want to score more but there are other positives: no yellow cards, no injuries,” Tabarez said of this year’s performances. “We’ll see who we get now (in the next round). You don’t see 10-0 games at the World Cup anymore. All the teams out there are good we respect all of them. That is a cardinal rule for us.”