Another one of the blockbuster clashes is on show tonight as two heavyweights take on each other to book a spot in the quarterfinals.
This second round of 16 fixtures will take place in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia.
Uruguay – The South American team nation come into this match on the back of very good form,
having lost just 1 game out of 12 in all competitions since last August, keeping a clean-sheet in 9 of
those. They are the only team to have not conceded a single goal in the tournament so far.
Past 5 games – W-W-W-W-W
Portugal – The Portuguese have had a somewhat unconvincing tournament so far with a narrow win and two draws, but have also lost just one game since last August in all competitions and friendlies.
Past 5 games – D-W-D-W-D
These two nations have faced each other just twice before tonight, one of which was a Portuguese win and the other was a 1-1 draw in 1972. However, this is the first time they meet on the grandest stage of them all.
Uruguay – No injury concerns in the squad is a good sign for coach Oscar Tabarez who might play this game in a cautious manner, as opposed to what his tactics suggested in the last game against Russia.
This would mean that Guillermo Varela and Jose Gimenez should return to the back four after being rested. Rodrigo Bentancur is the only player who is at risk of missing a potential quarter-final game if he is booked tonight.
Portugal – Fernando Santos will be buoyed by the return of midfielder Joao Moutinho from illness as he made a substitute appearance against Iran. There are no other injury concerns for Portugal although Santos may be looking to tinker with his tactics after two below-par performances. A concern for him is that six of his players are on caution to be suspended for the quarter final, if they make it, including Cristiano Ronaldo.
Uruguay – He may be overwhelmed with controversy and drama, but there are few better in front of goal than Luis Suarez. The Barcelona man is not only a clinical finisher but also a wonderful creator and he will be the biggest threat for a leaky and aging Portugal defense. Though Pepe can be a dirty and agitating opponent, Suarez has enough ability to take on an already exposed 35-year-old CB.
Portugal – Maybe not as much as Leo Messi has for Argentina, but Cristiano Ronaldo has been the flag- bearer for his country for a long time now. He will have to negotiate the rock that is Diego Godin in the Uruguayan defense and overturn his underwhelming performances in the last two games after that wonderful hattrick against Spain.
Once again, this is as hard to predict as any of the knockout stage clashes. As opposed to Portugal, the Uruguayans have the advantage of not one but two world-class strikers in Suarez and Cavani but have a relatively inexperienced midfield behind them. Though the other Portuguese players have stepped up, a lot still relies on the form of Cristiano Ronaldo and they could be in the frontrunning if he has a good game. But that remains a giant ‘if’, especially against a defense that is the only one to have not conceded a single goal in the group stages. My heart says Uruguay might just take this one.