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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.

KALININGRAD, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) - Morocco will play their final World Cup match with a big chip on their shoulders, with their coach taking a few early parting shots at referees and officials Sunday ahead of the team's Group B clash with Spain.

A still-fuming Morocco coach Herve Renard seemed to be more focused on the 1-0 loss to Portugal last Wednesday than their match on Monday against Spain and the chance of heading home with a big scalp.

The heart-breaking defeat to the European champions meant that Morocco would become the first team out of the World Cup and stung even more by what Renard viewed as questionable officiating.

“For us it is unjust we are already out before these third matches, but we have to accept reality and concentrate on this third game and to save our honour since this is all that is left to us,” said Renard.

“The most difficult thing is to play this kind of match knowing we will have to pack and go home and leave the competition.

“We have to force ourselves to find something to fight for.

“I hope we will be galvanised by what has been inflicted against us, and this is what I will try to tell my players.”

A battling Morocco have played with energy and purpose, but a lack of finishing left the North African side with nothing more to show for their effort than a pair of 1-0 losses to Portugal and Iran.

Renard was still particularly upset at what he felt was a foul by Portugal's Pepe on Khalid Boutaib that opened the way for Ronaldo's fourth minute goal.

“It is highly unfair,” said Renard. “There was a huge foul committed by Pepe on the first post, it was not seen. Why wasn't it seen?

“And there was Pepe's hand (ball) just as happened in Australia against Denmark for which there was a penalty. It may have been an unintentional hand, but why do we get different results in two games?

“And then Boutaib is tackled violently in the box and the referees don't say a word, so the whole thing is totally unfair.”

While Morocco will be playing for honour, Spain will be seeking something much more tangible.

Spain enter their final group match on four points, equal with Portugal but with top spot up for grabs.

“As far as we are concerned we will play the same way we played against Portugal and Iran and so the best we can,” said Moroccan goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi.

“We haven't been fortunate with respect to the final results, but I do think we do deserve this reward and give some joy to the squad and all the people who supported us.”

 

SAMARA, Russia, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) - With Russia set to play Uruguay in a heat wave, authorities in Samara say they'll be distributing free drinking water at the stadium.

The local government is warning temperatures could hit 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) at the Samara Arena around the time of the game Monday.

Some fans must walk nearly a mile (1.6 kilometers) to the stadium after arriving on public transportation, and medical staff with water will be deployed along the route and by the stadium entrances.

Both Russia and Uruguay have qualified for the knockout stages before the game, which will determine who finishes first in Group A.

If there's a draw, host nation Russia would claim top spot due to a superior goal difference.

MOSCOW, June 24, 2018 (MENA) - Syria has not possessed chemical weapons since 2013 and any accusations that the Syrian army is using them are a pretext for an intervention by other countries, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Russian channel NTV on Sunday.

According to the Syrian leader, these fairy tales about chemical weapons are invented when the terrorists controlled by the West are defeated in some Syrian areas.

"These provocations have nothing to do with reality. This is the result of their own imagination, and that of the media, and something what is invented by their mass media is further disseminated across the world through the Internet and other media. That’s why it is impossible to prevent this provocation. Americans constantly lie and attack immediately," the Syrian president said.

"When there is no respect for international rules, when there are no efficient UN bodies, you may not speak about preventing provocations and the world lives upon the jungle law," he noted.


AMMAN, June 24, 2018 (Reuters) - Russian jets struck an opposition held town in southwest Syria on Sunday, opposition sources said, in the first air cover provided by Moscow to an expanding Syrian army offensive to recapture the strategic area bordering Jordan and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.

Two tracking centers that monitor military aircraft movements recorded at least twenty strikes on Busra al Harir, northeast of Deraa, a city in Syria, two sources told Reuters.

“We have tracked a sortie of 5 Russian jets that performed 25 raids,” said one source saying the war jets had set off from Russia’s Hmeimim air base in the western coastal province of Latakia in Syria.

Syrian government forces had so far made heavy use of artillery and rockets in the current assault, and Russian warplanes that were critical to the recovery of other rebel-held areas had not been deployed until now.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sworn to recapture the sensitive strategic area and the army began ramping up its assault there last week, threatening a “de-escalation” zone agreed by the United States and Russia last year.

Throwing in Russia’s full military weight in the campaign to regain southern Syria will weaken the ability of mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups to withstand relentless bombing on civilian areas that forced their compatriots in other areas to submit to surrender deals.

Opposition hopes had been raised after Washington warned Assad and his Russian allies that violations of the zone would have “serious repercussions” and pledged “firm and appropriate measures”.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said earlier on Friday that the Syrian military escalation “unambiguously violates” the de-escalation arrangement.

“Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any further escalations in ‎Syria,” Haley said in a statement.

Rebels in southern Syria have received support, including arms from Assad’s foreign foes during the seven-year-long war .

But analysts believe the aid has dropped after U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to shut down a military aid program run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Unless an agreement is reached between Moscow and Washington over the fate of southern Syria, a big offensive risks an escalation that could draw the United States deeper into the war.

Southwest Syria is of strategic concern to U.S.-allied Israel, which this year has stepped up attacks on Iran-backed militia allied to Assad.

U.S ally Jordan which had long said the zone had brought relative calm on its northern border announced it was engaged in intensive diplomacy with Washington and Moscow to preserve the zone and prevent a wider confrontation.

“We stress the importance of respecting the agreement and we are working to prevent the explosion of the situation,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a tweet on Friday.

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