Amidst the weight of expectations placed on countries like Spain, Brazil, and Germany to take home the gold from Russia, Uruguay has quietly gone about their business. After the completion of their group stage campaign, La Celeste would seem to be on a mission to glory in Russia.
Portugal present a dicey situation
After waiting for waiting for almost seven decades to lift the World Cup again, this might be Uruguay’s opportunity. With the golden trio of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Godin to count on, the Uruguayans are difficult to bet against. That said, coming against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal presents a dicey situation. Individually, the Portuguese are not the best in the game, except for a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. But as a collective unit they have proven to know how to get the job done irrespective of the opponent.<
A Selecao das Quinas need no introduction. They are the European Champions. And they went to the lions den, saw, and eventually conquered. They beat a star-studded French team right in front of their teaming home fans at the Stade de France to win their first ever UEFA European Championship. They certainly performed beyond the expectations of most — something that has become a unique characteristic for the team in recent times.
Historically, even with the nation’s abundance of talents, the Portuguese have always underperformed in major tournaments. Their best performance in the World Cup has been a third-place finish in 1966 when the legendary Eusebio led the line scoring a whopping 9 goals in that single tournament.
But since coming close to winning the Euros on home soil before being stunned by Greece, Ronaldo’s presence in the squad has made the Portuguese a serious contender in competitions. Even though they won the Euros with the Real Madrid forward on the sidelines, his influence was still massive.
Portugal have Ronaldo, Uruguay have more
But for whatever influence the Navigators have from their star man, Uruguay has more to count on. With Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani leading the line while the duo of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez provide solidity at the back.
The Uruguayans have been impressive in Russia. The South Americans are the only team in the competition yet to concede a goal after three matches. Yet, they have not failed to score in any of them. After labouring to 1-0 victories against Egypt and Saudi Arabia, La Celeste put no one in doubt of their readiness to make Russia 2018 count when they routed the host nation 3-0 with both Suarez and Cavani getting on the score sheet.
Luis Suarez registered his second goal for the tournament after his lone strike against a stubborn Saudi Arabia settled the contest. Cavani on the other hand used the match to open his account for the competition. A clean sheet against the host nation that has been on rampage scoring eight goals in two matches prior to the Uruguay game says a lot. It speaks to the strength of the team in the defence. This is apparently vital for a team with high ambitions.
Unpicking the Portugeuse defence
However, in Portugal the Uruguayans face a team that is not only potent upfront but also compact and tight at the back. The Portuguese have the setup and winning mentality necessary to withstand an onslaught. And their counter-attacking game can put any side in trouble. This was demonstrated in the match against 2010 World Champions and favorites Spain.
That said, the central defence pairing of Pepe and Jose Fonte, both of whom are gone past their prime will find it difficult to cope with arguably the deadliest strike force in international football today. The prolific pair of Suarez and Cavani are just short of a century of goals for the national side between them.
They also scored goals aplenty between them in club football during the close season. Suarez registered 31 for Barcelona in all competitions while the PSG man scored 38 for the French giants.
Shutting the duo out will be an uphill task for the Portuguese defence. At the back, the experienced Godin will keep Ronaldo in check, supported by youthful Gimenez who has also demonstrated his ability to go forward and make things happen in difficult moments. His late goal against Egypt gave Uruguay their first win in Russia.
So, barring any unforeseen circumstances, there is only one way this tie will go: a win for the Uruguayans and progress to the quarter final of the tournament.<