Portugal take on Uruguay at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi in the 2018 World Cup Round of 16. It shapes up as in intriguing battle with wily coaches Fernando Santos and Óscar Tabárez coming face to face.
I spoke with Portugoal’s Tom Kundert and Patrick Ribeiro before the match about Portugal’s match against Iran and their chances against the South Americans in the round of 16:
How Portugal got here
Portugal twice took the lead against Spain but were pegged back each time and trailed 3-2 with minutes to go. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped with a late free kick to complete his hat-trick and seal the draw which in many ways felt like a win.
The Seleção weren’t at their best against Morocco but Ronaldo’s early header proved the difference. Iran should have been taken care of but Ricardo Quaresma’s stunner was cancelled out by a dubious penalty in added time and Ronaldo’s earlier penalty saved.
How Uruguay got here
Uruguay haven’t been at their best in Russia but won all three Group A games without conceding a goal. La Celeste left it late against Egypt with José Giménez heading in for a 1-0 win. It was the same score against Saudi Arabia with Luis Suárez on target.
Russia were up next as the South Americans capitalised on Igor Smolnikov’s first half red card to run out easy 3-0 winners. Suárez and Edinson Cavani got on the scoresheet with Lucas Torreira impressing in his first start of the tournament.
Portugal’s key players
Cristiano Ronaldo is used to breaking records but there a significant one eluding him. Eusébio bagged nine goals at the 1966 World Cup to be Portugal’s all-time top scorer in the competition. Ronaldo is now two behind after taking his tally to seven against Morocco.
There isn’t much we haven’t seen from the Seleção superstar who now has 85 goals from 153 caps. We know his capabilities and hopefully he can keep delivering and lifting his teammates to keep Portugal’s World Cup hopes alive.
Pepe might be an annoying character at times but there is no doubting his importance for Portugal. A driving force at Euro 2016, the 35-year-old will have to be at his best with two of the best strikers in football in his path.
Uruguay’s key players
Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani have been regular goal scoring machines for club and country. With 96 combined international goals they are one of the most lethal striker partnerships in world football.
Diego Godin has been a permanent fixture in the heart of the Atletico Madrid central defence which is one of the meanest in Europe. It will be a blow for Uruguay if his club teammate Jose Gimenez is unable to recover in time.
Portugal’s tactics & team
Fernando Santos loves his fluid 4-4-2 with wingers cutting inside and full-backs providing width. He is unlikely to change here and could see an opportunity to get around a narrow Uruguay side.
I expect Quaresma to keep his place and Gonçalo Guedes to come back in for André Silva. João Moutinho could return for Adrien Silva or Santos might go with both of them either side of William if Santos decides on an extra central midfielder.
Raphael Guerreiro has been a liability in the past two games and needs help defensively. We will see if Uruguay target him and how that affects the game.
Uruguay’s tactics & team
Tabárez has been tinkering with his midfield making two changes in each game. Matías Vecino and Rodrigo Bentancur have started every match with Lucas Torreira earning his first start against Russia and playing well.
Guillermo Varela and Diego Laxalt compete for a full-back spot while Sebastián Coates will continue if José Giménez can’t recover. Suárez and Cavani speak for themselves.
What an occasion
This will be Portugal’s 30th game at their fifth consecutive World Cup and seventh overall. Getting to the knockout rounds for the fourth time in Seleção history shouldn’t be taken for granted, but the players and supporters know they can achieve more.
Ronaldo is playing in his fourth World Cup so enjoy it while it lasts. It’s time to believe that anything is possible, come together and unite as Portugal take on Uruguay and the world.