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VOLGOGRAD, Russia, June 25, 2018 (MENA) - Egypt's goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary breaks the record and becomes the oldest player to participate at a World Cup at the age of 45.

The move comes after he was chosen to participate in Egypt's final match in Group A with Saudi Arabia at the age of 45 years and five months, beating the record of former Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón.

The Colombian goalkeeper was 43 years and three days when he played against Japan in 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

SAMARA, Russia, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) - Uruguay sealed top spot in World Cup Group A with a 3-0 win over 10-man Russia at the Samara Arena on Monday. A Luis Suarez free kick and a Denis Cheryshev own goal gave Oscar Taveras’s side a two-goal lead before Russia’s Igor Smolnikov was sent off for two quick bookings.

Edinson Cavani rounded off a third successive victory for the South Americans, who finish the first phase with a 100% record and are yet to concede a goal.

In the other group match, Saudi Arabia ended their 11-game winless streak at the World Cup in dramatic style courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Egypt in Group A clash in Volgograd.

The game appeared to be on its way to an uneventful conclusion but in the fifth minute of added-on time, Salem Al-Dawsari found the bottom corner from eight yards to give his team a rare win on the global stage.

Both teams went into this fixture with little to play for but it did not take long for the game to click into gear with Saudi Arabia firing a number of efforts from distance off target.

Mohamed Salah had been quiet for Egypt but midway through the first half, the Liverpool winger put his nation ahead by lobbing Yasser Al-Mosailem after running onto a long ball from Abdallah Said.

Saudi Arabia equalised on the stroke of halftime after for a shirt pull inside the box and Salman Al-Faraj made no mistake as he swept the ball into the left-hand corner.

SAMARA, Russia, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) - Uruguay burnished their World Cup credentials with a 3-0 victory over 10-man Russia on Monday, finishing top of Group A with a perfect record while dampening the hopes of the tournament hosts, who had to settle for second.

Luis Suarez grabbed his second goal of the tournament to open Uruguay's account with a free kick after 10 minutes and they doubled the lead with an own goal from Russia's Denis Cheryshev soon after.

That silenced a vociferous home crowd who had been in party mode after Russia's opening two victories and were not expecting their final group contest to be effectively ended in the 36th minute when Igor Smolnikov was sent off for a second booking.

Edinson Cavani bundled home a third goal for Uruguay at the death to wrap up their third straight victory, ensuring they finished above the Russians, who will now have to face the winners of Group B in the last 16.

Uruguay, who kept their sixth straight clean sheet, will face the runners-up from that group, which will be decided when Spain, Portugal and Iran battle it out for two last-16 spots later on Monday.

While Russia had confounded those who predicted a group stage exit with resounding victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there was still a question mark over how they would perform when they faced stronger opposition.

VOLGOGRAD, Russia, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) - Saudi Arabia managed their first win at the 2018 World Cup by beating Egypt 2-1 with a last-gasp winner that Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah's 22nd minute goal in Monday's Group A game between the two eliminated teams.

Saudi Arabia finished third in the group standings, scoring their only goals of the tournament and vastly improving from the 5-0 thrashing by hosts Russia in their opening game.

It was a bitter disappointment for the Egyptian side, however, with Liverpool striker Salah unable to prevent three consecutive defeats for his country. Egyptian keeper Essam El-Hadary became the oldest player ever to appear at a World Cup at 45-years-old.

Saudi Arabia got back in the game with a penalty awarded just before halftime and Salman Al-Faraj scored from the spot.

They then pulled off a win in the 95th minute thanks to Salem Al-Dawsari's angled shot.

YEKATERINBURG, Russia, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) - Attack-minded Japan have defied sceptics who said they would flop at the World Cup and instead go into their final group game on Thursday needing just a draw to reach the last 16.

Japan sacked their coach just two months before the World Cup, throwing their preparations for Russia into chaos.

Following a series of poor friendly results and reported clashes with senior players, the Japan Football Association (JFA) gambled in getting rid of Vahid Halilhodzic and replaced him with JFA technical director Akira Nishino.

The move in April was deeply controversial, coming so close to the World Cup, even if not quite on the scale of the risk taken by Spain, who dumped their coach on the eve of the tournament.

Philippe Troussier, a former coach of the Asian side, told AFP before the tournament that a team bereft of confidence had "no chance" of reaching the knockout stages.

Japan may still fail to get out of Group H, but they have surpassed expectations and play already eliminated Poland with their fate in their own hands.

It has been a roller-coaster few weeks for Japanese fans.

Friendly defeats to Ghana and Switzerland following Nishino's appointment deepened the sense of foreboding, although Japan did beat Paraguay just before the World Cup.

From there they became history-makers when they beat 10-man Colombia 2-1 in their opening game, the first Asian side to defeat a South American team at a World Cup.

They followed that up with a 2-2 draw against Sadio Mane's Senegal on Sunday, a game in which Japan had enough chances to win but ended up twice chasing the match because of poor defending.

Even Senegal coach Aliou Cisse admitted the Asians were the better side.

In the Colombia victory in particular Japan were rewarded for Nishino's adventurous approach.

On the eve of the Senegal showdown, in which Japan were again the underdogs, Nishino revealed that at half time against Colombia some of his players wanted to settle for 1-1.

"But I said that we could win and we will win so we went for victory and that is why I gave them attacking tactics and that is why we are top of the group," said Nishino.

Behind the rather dour demeanour, Nishino has shown himself to have a dry wit.

Asked before the Senegal match how he would counter their strength and height advantage, he replied tongue-in-cheek: "For the past several days I have been telling my players to gain five centimetres and five kilos, but it failed, so we need other measures."

Unfortunate to be 2-1 down on 71 minutes, Nishino made what turned out to be a masterstroke against Senegal.

He immediately hauled off the ineffectual Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa and replaced him with 32-year-old Keisuke Honda in a like-for-like change.

He also replaced midfielder Genki Haraguchi with Leicester City forward Shinji Okazaki as he went for broke.

Six minutes after coming on, Honda equalised.

Knowing that victory would effectively seal a spot in the next round, Nishino threw on attacking midfielder Takashi Usami in the dying minutes.

Japan looked more likely to win, though Nishino said he was content with a point.

"I suggested some improvements and I thought we could go for the win and I told them that (at half time)," said Nishino, a former Gamba Osaka coach criticised in the past for his buccaneering approach.

"In the second half we wanted to win and after twice equalising I put on Usami. There was an option to put on a defender, but I chose to attack."

 

YEKATERINBURG, Russia, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) - Seven teams have won their first two World Cup matches, and six of them are through to the next round. The exception is Mexico. El Tri still may need points to secure a place in the round of 16 for a seventh consecutive World Cup.

Victories over defending champion Germany and South Korea weren't quite enough. If Sweden beats Mexico on Wednesday and Germany beats South Korea, three teams would be tied atop Group F with six points, sending it to tiebreakers that start with the best goal differential.

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said there wasn't any panic when he and his teammates learned they had unfinished business in their final game.

"We knew that we were going to play for first place against Sweden," Ochoa told reporters Sunday. "This result wasn't going to change anything."

If Mexico and South Korea both win, Mexico would win the group and every other team would be tied with three points.

Sweden hasn't made it to the second round since 2006. And like Mexico, six points wouldn't necessarily be enough to advance. The Swedes might end up needing to win by two goals, depending on what Germany does.

Mexico upset Germany 1-0 in its opener and then dispatched South Korea 2-1. It looked like those results would be enough for Mexico to advance, but then Toni Kroos scored deep into extra time to give Germany a 2-1 win over Sweden, setting up the various scenarios that will come into play during Tuesday's simultaneous matches.

Swedish midfielder Jimmy Durmaz was subjected to racial attacks from fans on social media after the loss to Germany. Durmaz entered the game as a substitute, and his foul gave Germany the free kick that set up Kroos' game-winner.

Durmaz was born in Sweden to ethnic Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey. He's been called a "terrorist," and vitriol has also been directed at his family. The online abuse was reported to police.

In a show of unity, the team and coach Janne Andersson stood with Durmaz as the player read a statement Sunday before a training session, calling the attacks "completely unacceptable."

"I am proud to play in the Swedish national team," Durmaz said. "I will never let any racists destroy that pride. We must all stand against all forms of racism."

A two-goal victory by Sweden would guarantee it a spot in the next round. But that's easier said than done.

Sweden has just two goals for the tournament, by Andreas Granqvist and Ola Toivonen.

Marcus Berg, who had eight goals in qualifying, has been held scoreless despite a team-high six scoring opportunities through two games.

While Mexico's defense has been solid, Ochoa is the biggest reason that El Tri have given up just one goal in the tournament.

Known by supporters as "The Great Wall of Ochoa," he has been a steadying presence for Mexico and has a tournament-high 14 saves. He stopped nine shots against Germany and five against South Korea. Denmark's Kasper Schmeichel is next with 10 saves.

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