Preview: Uruguay v Portugal

Uruguay has won all their matches at the 2018 World Cup and head into Saturday’s last-16 tie against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal as slight favourites in Sochi.

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2018 FIFA World Cup
30 June 2018
Round of 16
Kick-off: 20:00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Fisht Olympic Stadium

Referee: C. Ramos
Assistants: M. Torrentera, M. Hernandez
Fourth official: J. Marrufo

Previous encounter:

Uruguay 1-1 Portugal (Friendly) 02/07/1972

Uruguay goalscorer: R. Pavoni (20′)
Portugal goalscorer: J. Graca (44′)

Players to watch:

Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are likely to be the key men for Uruguay having scored three goals between them so far at the tournament. Both are world-class strikers in their own right for Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain respectively and they will no doubt be out to test a Portuguese defence which has shown vulnerability in Russia.

Cristiano Ronaldo will, of course, be the player to watch for A Selecao das Quinas after his four goals during the competition so far. The Real Madrid forward virtually carries the entire attack though fellow veteran Ricardo Quaresma still has a bit of magic in his boots to change games with a moment of brilliance.

Team form and manager quotes:

The South Americans come into this last-16 encounter having won all of their Group A matches while also not conceding a single goal.

La Celeste boasts an impressive pedigree at the global showpiece in recent years after finishing fourth in 2010 and getting to the Round of 16 the last time out as well.

Nonetheless, manager Oscar Tabarez wants complete focus from his side, saying: “We need to improve very quickly (from the performance against Russia) because any match in the round of 16 will be extremely difficult.

“For me, the holy grail of football is the word ‘balance’. When we attack we need to be able to attack, but it doesn’t come from an abstract suggestion.”

Meanwhile, the European champions drew twice and won once in their Group B games although they came very close to an exit when Iran nearly scored at the death in a 1-1 draw on 25 June.

As such, coach Fernando Santos has warned his men that breaking down the Uruguayans will be a tough challenge. He told reporters: “They are a typical South American side.

“It’s not just in this World Cup that they have not been conceding goals, it has been like that for the whole of 2018.

“Oscar Tabarez is the longest-serving international manager. That means he has a very strong relationship with his players.”

Team news:

Defender Jose Gimenez is set for a return for Uruguay after missing the victory over Russia with a back injury.

Portugal’s Gelson Martins and Raphael Guerreiro are back in contention after making a return to full training this week. However, defensive midfielder William Carvalho is a doubt meaning Joao Moutinho could start the contest.