Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Uruguay vs. Portugal preview, players to watch, key stats

Why Cristiano Ronaldo should have been shown a second yellow card against Iran Bruno Alves: 'We are focusing on ourselves'
Jan Ortega | 30 June, 2018, 01:16

Uruguay defender Sebastian Coates warned his team not to focus exclusively on Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of their World Cup last-16 clash with Portugal.

Uruguay enter the match very much on the ascendency having won all three of their group games in the tournament so far, with none of Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia proving themselves capable of shutting the door on the South Americans' potent attack.

Nearly irrespective of who those wins came against, Uruguay will be on a high as one of only three teams to triumph in all their group games in Russia-Croatia and Belgium are the other two. "Even if he scores three goals in match, you still need to have a team to support him".

The victor of Saturday's clash will face either France or Argentina in the quarter finals and, whatever the final score ends up being, one suspects that Ronaldo or Suarez will make an indelible imprint on the game.

Deprived of the chance to play at this stage of the last World Cup after being suspended for his infamous bite on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez will lead the Uruguay line at the Fisht Stadium alongside Edinson Cavani. Karim Ansarifard's controversial penalty however, combined with Spain's injury time equaliser against Morocco, sent them into the harder half of the draw. Portugal beat England in 2006; Uruguay beat Ghana in 2010. Only Nizhny Novgorod has offered greater entertainment. That could mean recalls for Guillermo Varela, Martin Caceres and Cristian Rodriguez, but Nahitan Nandez may have done enough to keep his place.

"I am happy. records are there to be broken", Suarez said after beating Russian Federation 3-0 in Uruguay's final group stage match, according to Reuters.

Portugal will be boosted by the return of Joao Moutinho, who only appeared as a late substitute against Iran due to illness.

One is whether to start Andre Silva or Goncalo Guedes up front alongside Ronaldo? One more and he will equal 1950 World Cup-winner Oscar Miguez's Uruguayan record of eight goals at the tournament.

Fernando Santos is lacking another defensive-midfield force akin to Carvalho in his squad, although Joao Moutinho could return alongside Adrien Silva in the engine room after starting on the bench against Russian Federation.

The victor of this fixture will go on to meet the winner of France and Argentina's encounter in Saturday's other round-of-16 matchup, as the tougher-looking side of the bracket gets up and running. That momentum could prove decisive on Saturday. Everybody knows, that we depend on our players. If Ronaldo is at his very best for Portugal then Uruguay could be in trouble, but that's a big if - he's been distinctly average since the hat-trick against Spain.

The two teams juxtapose one another nicely heading into what could be a frantic round-of-16 clash, too.

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