Uruguay vs Portugal – Saturday, June 30, 19:00BST/20:00CEST/21:00 MSK – Fisht-Stadium, Sochi, Russia
The minimalists are meeting each other in the round of 16. Uruguay romped through the group with minimal results against Saudi Arabia (1-0) and Egypt (1-0) and an exciting 3-0 victory over hosts Russia.
Three wins in a row now opens the door for La Celeste to win four matches at the World Cup for the first time since hosting, and winning, the tournament in 1930. It would be a historic moment for Uruguay, who last managed to get past the round of 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where they finished fourth.
The optimistic outlook, however, received a damper with news emerging that Atlético Madrid defender José Gimenez, who also missed the match against Russia, could be out against Portugal on Saturday. “We are optimistic that he will be back in the squad,” team doctor Alberto Pan told the media on Thursday. But Gimenez struggled at the public training session and had to work individually.
His absence would be a major blow for Uruguay. La Celeste are very much defined through their defensive work and will have their work cut out on Saturday when they face the world’s best forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
In many ways, Portugal are dependent on the Real Madrid forward, even though it was Ricardo Quaresma, who scored the goal that saw Portugal ultimately go through to the next round after a 1-1 draw against Iran. Despite a spectacular 3-3 draw against Spain and advancing out of Group B Portugal overall have shown lacklustre performances at this tournament.
Head coach Fernando Santos seems to very much rely on the defensive tactics that saw his country win the 2016 European Championships in France. Whether the plan to physically overpower teams will work in the light of the extra travel from Moscow to Sochi – a first-place finish would have allowed the Seleção das Quinas to remain in Moscow – will be the main question.
“Uruguay has plenty of quality. Quality that we know because all the players play in top European leagues”, Santos explained to the media this week. “But we also have weapons”, he quickly added.
There is no doubt that Portugal have the quality to power past Uruguay. But the problem with the Seleção das Quinas has been that the quality has been on display far too seldom throughout this tournament. Throughout the tournament, Portugal have lacked clear ideas when going forward and even the defence, which was the anchor of stability, has been at times patchy and will have to improve if Portugal want to stand a chance against top strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
It will be interesting to see how the two teams will approach this match. Both Uruguay and Portugal are defensive by nature relying on the individual brilliance of their attacking lines. It will, therefore, be a tense match that could be decided by a moment of delight. Hence, bring patience to this game you might be rewarded.
Uruguay vs Portugal – Players to look out for:
Lucas Torreira #14 – Uruguay (Sampdoria)
Lucas Torreira is one of the most in-demand defensive midfielders in Europe. Linked with a move to Arsenal Torreira is the latest box-to-box midfielder, who can both destroy and create. The 22-year-old had an outstanding season with Sampdoria in Italy this season and now anchors Uruguay’s midfield in the 4-3-1-2 formation playing the defensive part and linking up the midfield with the defence. Furthermore, with Gimenez potentially missing the match Torreira will be asked to provide further cover tracking Portugal’s fast attacking players.
Ricardo Quaresma #20 – Portugal (Besiktas)
Is there life beyond Cristiano Ronaldo? That was the question after the first two Portugal matches at this World Cup. The answer is a resounding yes after Ricardo Quaresma’s beautiful strike against Iran that saw his country advance to the round of 16. Known as Harry Potter among his teammates is a player for the magic moments and it might take a magic moment to undo Uruguay’s defence.
Uruguay vs Portugal – Match Stats
- Uruguay meet for the third time but for the first time at a World Cup. Portugal are still undefeated against Uruguay (W1 D1).
- Portugal have lost just one of their last 17 tournament games. (W8 D8 without penalty shootouts). At World Cups Portugal have lost the last three knockout stage matches.
- Since the round of 16 has been introduced Uruguay were eliminated in three out of four occasions at this stage. Only in 2010 did Uruguay advance.
- For the first time since 1930, Uruguay could win four games in a row at a World Cup.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Uruguay vs Portugal – 0-1
Uruguay vs Portugal – Lineups
Muslera – Laxalt, Godín, Coates, Caceres – Vecino, Torreira, Nandez – Bentancur – Cavani, Suarez
Head Coach: Fernando Santos
Rui Patricio – Guerreiro, José Fonte, Pepe, Cedric – Joao Mario, Adrien Silva, William Carvalho, Quaresma – Cristiano Ronaldo, André Silva
Head Coach: Oscar Tabarez
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.