Uruguay v Portugal – Fisht Stadium at 19:00
Euro 2016 champions Portugal are up against two-time World Cup title holders Uruguay in what looks to be a very competitive last 16 encounter at Sochi. La Celeste is one of only two sides who has won all three group matches so far, while Portugal barely survived elimination scare after 2-2 draw with Iran. Some reckon this will be a straight shoot-out between the camps’ high-powered strikers. For those who are analyzing the bigger picture, this is a thought-provoking tactical battle between Oscar Tabarez and Fernando Santos.
– Uruguay sealed first place in Group A at Russia’s expense with goals by Suarez, Cheryshev (own goal), and Cavani.
– Jose Gimenez is back in training and is reportedly ready for clash against Portugal after being sidelined for muscle injury.
– Cristiano Ronaldo has already scored four goals in the tournament but is also one booking away from a ban. Bookings will only be taken off the records after the quarter-finals.
– Ricardo Quaresma hit spectacular equalizer that carried Portugal into knockout rounds.
– Portugal blew chance to finish on top of Group B after a VAR decision rewarded Iran with late penalty.
Uruguay had the perfect cruise to the next stage. They finished off foes and earned all nine points thanks to their watertight defense structure. They boast of an impressive recent record having conceded precisely zero goals in last four matches. Their aerial strength, robust style, and midfield craftiness are to be feared. Their 3-0 demolition of hosts Russia is a bold announcement to the rest of the participants that they have their eyes on the finals at Luzhniki.
Portugal had to work hard to reach this round. They had a rough draw against Spain in the opener and faced another dead-heat with Iran in the final group match. Portugal’s own ammo has kept them afloat in the tournament, however. Their strong backline and attack of the ball prove they play quality football. Their talented star Ronaldo will have to earn them their lead.
We’re in for a tense match, but conjectures from sports trading platforms and Asian handicap odds show Uruguay has slight leverage.
KEY PLAYERS: TWIN THREATS
Uruguay: Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez
The South American team has complete faith their deadly strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will come good again. Cavani can lead the line while dropping deeper along with Suarez. La Celeste’s attack arsenals both like to cut inside and are keen to set-pieces. Barcelona man Suarez often drops as well to fulfill playmaker roles. He is dynamic and Cavani’s key passes will enable him to deliver long shots.
Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma
Ronaldo is their main guy, no doubt. What he sometimes lacks in defensive contribution, he makes up for with élan to get the ball in the net. Now he has a talismanic partner in the form of Quaresma. This Portuguese enigmatic prodigy also plays long balls and has efficient finishing. With them working the pitch, sharp shots will be aplenty.
Dedicated strikers Suarez and Cavani will make midfield men get the ball into advanced positions. Two wide midfielders and full-backs can cause crosses into the box. This will impose attack threat down the wings of opposition.
This adaptable system is Santos’ usual as it gives the team plenty of widths and midfield strengths. Ronaldo can play high up the field and lay off the ball to another attacking midfielder. A creative player can also be put up in the hole to transform placement into a 4-4-1-1.
PROBABLE STARTING XI:
Uruguay: Jose Gimenez, Diego Godin, Sebastian Coates, Martin Caceres, Cristian Rodriguez, Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Carlos Andres Sanchez, Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, Fernando Muslera
Portugal: Cedric Soares, Kepler Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Moutinho, Adrien Silva, Ricardo Quaresma, Bruno Fernandes, Andre Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rui Patricio
Uruguay v Portugal: 3-2
Opening score may be the tell-tale for this match. Big hits all over and lots of crying to the referee. Portugal was handed a serious World Cup challenge. With resilience and rhythm, they can break down Uruguay’s defense. Sidenote, Uruguay has solid coordination and goalscoring firepower to top it off. If Gimenez and Godin succeed in riling Ronaldo, it will be perilous for Portugal. Tight match. Every game from here on out will feel like the finals.
MATCH BETTING ODDS:
*Prices correct at the time of writing.
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