World Cup Round of 16: Uruguay v Portugal a tag-team match featuring Cavani, Suarez against Ronaldo, Quaresma
The knockout phase of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is finally here, and Uruguay will take on Portugal at Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi.
Uruguay won Group A convincingly, with three wins from three. The South Americans are seemingly a side that could stun anyone in any given knockout tie. Yet nobody is really talking about them. Meanwhile, Portugal had to work harder to earn their spot in the last sixteen. They clinched a draw against Spain, defeated Morocco, and drew against Iran in a game where they could have easily lost during stoppage time. Now, both sides will meet in the Round of 16 with a clear goal in mind; secure a spot in the quarter-finals.
This will be the first time these two sides will meet in an international fixture, and it will be the classic defence against attack match-up. While Uruguay prioritises their tactic based on solidity as a unit and building from the back, Portugal rely on what Cristiano Ronaldo can do upfront, although the likes of Andre Silva and Ricardo Quaresma can act as decent partners from the wings.
It will be an authentic clash of styles; on paper at least. At this point, there is no clear favourite heading into this game.
Group A Winners
Is it time to call Uruguay a reliable contender just yet? Based on what they did during the group stage they certainly look like it. Los Charruas kicked things off with consecutive 1-0 wins over Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and later they demolished Russia to the tune of a 3-0 win where Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani both got on the scoresheet. Suarez has found the back of the net in each of his last two games, so he is quietly finding his mojo. However, we all know Uruguay’s strength comes on the defensive end. They are yet to concede in the tournament and have looked good for their three-straight clean-sheets. Maintaining that against Cristiano Ronaldo and company will be a quite complicated, though.
Uruguay’s manager, Oscar Washington Tabarez, got some good news prior to this game, as star centre-back Jose Maria Gimenez will be eligible to return following his absence in the last game vs Russia. The Atletico Madrid man is widely expected to return to the starting XI, partnering with current club-mate Diego Godin at the back.
Rodrigo Betancur is the only admonished player that could be suspended in case of receiving a yellow card. No other Uruguay player was booked during the first round.
Group B Runners-up
Portugal enter this game after a solid, yet unspectacular campaign in Group B. The reigning European champions got their tournament off to an impressive start with a 3-3 draw against Spain; thanks to a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo. Later, they defeated Morocco 1-0 thanks to an early header from the Real Madrid star. They struggled in their final match against Iran, however, but the 1-1 draw – that included a missed penalty from Ronaldo and a stunning goal from Ricardo Quaresma – was enough to clinch a spot in the next round. It is worth noting that Ronaldo scored four of Portugal's five goals in the first three matches.
Fernando Santos could have an important absence in midfield. Sporting CP midfielder William Carvalho played the full 90 minutes in all three games, but he is dealing with an injury and he will likely be a game-time decision. Adrien Silva and Joao Moutinho could emerge as potential replacements in case the hard-working defensive midfielder can’t go come kick-off o'clock.
As if that was not enough, there are a few players that need to take care of a potential suspension due to yellow cards. Bruno Fernandes, Adrien Silva, Raphael Guerreiro, Cristiano Ronaldo, Quaresma and Cedric Soares all received a booking during the group stages, which means that another yellow card will mean they would miss a potential quarter-final match; should they get by Uruguay.
This will probably be the most evenly-matched tie in the Round of 16. Portugal and Uruguay can basically cancel each other out, as the European side thrives on the attacking end while Los Charruas perform better on the defensive side. It will be a case of which side can effectively employ their style while targeting the opposition's weakness.
Portugal gets the nod here, but the match could easily go into extra time or even penalties. Ronaldo will be too much to handle for the Uruguayan defence. Expect the reigning European champions to make their way into the last eight.