The European champions take on the two-time World Cup champs in one Round of 16 matchup.
Will Portugal or Uruguay prevail in their clash in Sochi?
Uruguay meet Portugal at Fisht Stadium in Sochi on June 30 in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup. The two sides will meet for the first time since 1972, when they drew 1-1 in the Brazil Independence Cup at the Maracaná in Rio de Janeiro.
Portugal and Uruguay have met on the pitch just twice. Prior to the 1972 match in Brazil, the two teams met in a friendly prior to the 1966 World Cup. Portugal, fueled by a Jose Torres hat-trick, won that match 3-0.
Let’s look quickly at how their upcoming encounter might turn out as the Euro 2016 champions meet the 1930 and 1950 World Cup winners at the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
How will Uruguay play?
Uruguay rolled through Group A at the World Cup. Drawn into one of the easier groups at this year’s tournament, the South American side claimed victory in all three of their matches. One-goal wins against Egypt and Saudi Arabia preceded a 3-0 drubbing of hosts Russia in a match to determine first and second place in the group.
Luis Suarez has two goals so far at this year’s World Cup, and zero bite marks left on opponents. Suarez gained infamy as El Mordedor when he sunk his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini of Italy and earned a four-month suspension. Since returning to the pitch in international play, Suarez has restored his image as one of the top strikers in the world.
Against Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Uruguay played a flat 4-4-2 with Suarez partnered with Edinson Cavani up top. For the final group match against Russia, the Uruguayans switched things up slightly as they went into a midfield diamond.
That 4-1-2-1-2 shape proved lethal against the hosts, carving up the Russians throughout their encounter.
Look for manager Oscar Tabarez to stick with the same look he went with against Russia. Fernando Muslera, who just notched his 100th cap for Uruguay in this World Cup, will once again be the anchor in goal. The back line will definitely feature Martín Caceres and Diego Godin. Tabarez has paired the veterans with several players throughout this tournament. Look for Sebastian Coates and Guillermo Varela or Diego Laxalt to round out the defense.
In the midfield diamond, Lucas Torreira serves as the defensive midfielder, with Nahitan Nández and Matías Vecino perched in front of him. At the attacking midfielder spot, Rodrigo Betancur has been an anchor this tournament in both the flat and diamond 4-4-2 looks.
How will Portugal play?
Portugal finished second in Group B, with total goals scored serving as the tiebreaker between the European champions and their Iberian rivals. Cristiano Ronaldo set the table for Portugal’s advancement to the Round of 16 when he completed a hat trick late in a wild 3-3 draw against Spain in the opener. A 1-0 victory over Morocco proved the difference, and a 1-1 draw against Iran ensured passage to the knockout stage.
Ronaldo has been at top form throughout the tournament. His four goals so far this tournament put him level with Romelu Lukaku in the Golden Boot race and rank behind only Harry Kane of England. The Real Madrid star once again has been Portugal’s offensive catalyst, as he has scored four of the team’s five goals so far at this World Cup.
Portugal has played exclusively in a flat 4-4-2 look so far this tournament. Rui Patricio holds down the goalkeeper spot, and the back four has consistently featured Cedric, Pepe, Jose Fonte, and Raphael Guerreiro. Other than the Spain match, the defensive quartet has been sound to date.
In the midfield, Ricardo Quaresma likely guaranteed himself a start in the Round of 16 after scoring Portugal’s goal in the 1-1 draw against Iran. On the opposite flank, Joao Mario is the likeliest candidate to get the start. In central midfield, Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho should get the start. Up top, Goncalo Guedes or Andre Silva have both played alongside Ronaldo.
Portugal have never lost to Uruguay. That trend is officially unlikely to change over the weekend in Russia. Look for Ronaldo to once again work his magic, trading goals with Luis Suarez. The two teams will go to extra time and then penalty kicks.
While the game will officially go down as a draw, the European champions will be bounced early in the knockout stage. Look for Fernando Muslera to come up big as Uruguay go through in a penalty shootout.