WC 2018 preview: Uruguay vs Portugal – Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi – 30th June GMT – Round of 16 clash
Portugal will meet Uruguay in at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on June 30 to start off the knock-out phase of the WC 2018. Portugal have struggled to find the kind of form normally associated with European champions and a FIFA 4th ranked side. Cristiano Ronaldo’s four goals from his 2 games aren’t exceptional as they seem. Two of them, one a free-kick against Spain and a header against Morocco are noteworthy. The 34-year old Real Madrid star has had little to contribute in the general play-making with folks like Ricardo Quaresma, William Carvalho and Joao Moutinho in the mid-field, Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes in the wings, Pepe, Jose Fonte and Cedric Soares at the back doing most of the hard work. In fact, the Portuguese should consider themselves lucky not to be 2 points behinds thanks to a major gaffe from Spanish goal-keeper David De Gea that help them secure a 3-3 draw.
Uruguay, who looked disjointed in the earlier part of the Group stage have recovered and found true form, puncturing a over-confident Russia 3-0 in their last game. Coach Oscar Taberez who has been around since 2010 has been able to maintain a perfect balance between the team’s offensive and defensive aspects of play. Although it’s been mostly about feeding their two prime strikers Luiz Suarez and Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayans have rendered a masterclass as far as defense is concerned. In Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez of Atletico Madrid they have a defensive pair who have been together for years, the back-line strength further augmented by the addition of veteran Verona right-back Martín Caceres and Porto old hand Maxi Pereira, all featuring in 3 World Cups so far. It would take more than Ronaldo’s current form and an inexperienced Portuguese attack of the very young Andre Silva and Goncalo Guedes to break the Uruguayan wall down. No wonder the South Americans are yet to concede a goal in Russia 2018.
One can expect much of the battle to take place in the mid-field where the Uruguayans have rich talent in the form of Rodrigo Bentancur of Juventus, Nahitan Nández of Boca Juniors, Matias Vecino of Inter Milan and Deportivo La Coruna’s Federico Valverde. Suarez and Cavani will be constant threats to the Portuguese goal, but the duo will have to polish up their finishing skills further to avoid the kind of opportunities they missed to add goals to their names in previous matches. In the game against Russia, the Uruguayan’s made 17 attempts on the goal but were able to convert just 2 goals, one being a own-goal from the Russians.
Considering Portugal’s mediocre form in the Group games – 5 goals scored vs 4 conceded and 5 points accrued, one can expect the in-form Uruguayans to keep their winning momentum going and prevail in Saturday’s knock-out game. The South Americans won all their 3 Group games accumulating 9 points, scoring 5 goals without conceding any. One can expect a tight scrappy match in which results can go either way as the almost equal odds suggest.
Ronaldo to Score, Best Odds 13/8 888Sport
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