The knock out stages of the 21st edition of FIFA World Cup commence from tomorrow and the second game in the late evening will see the Portuguese take on the Uruguayans in Sochi. This is for the first time that two teams will meet at the FIFA World Cup.Both the teams were undefeated in their group stage matches and has performed relatively well in compared to the other big teams. Uruguay is the only team along with Belgium and Croatia to maintain a 100% win record in the group stages. Two of the deadliest strikers in the world,Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez will come again face to face albeit in national colours. We will also witness the duel of different on-field team strategies from two of the most experienced international coaches in Oscar Tabarez and Fernando Santos. Let’s now do a quick preview of Uruguay vs Portugal’s round of 16 match.
Uruguay started off languidly against the Egyptians and only a very late goal by their central defender Jose Gimenez gave them a winning start to the tournament. Same was the case when they faced tournament minnows Saudi Arabia and laboured to victory via a Luis Suarez goal. The Uruguayans picked up their game in the last group encounter when they outclassed the inform host country Russia by 3-0.They looked brilliant overall and both their talismanic forwards Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez were on the score-sheet for Uruguay. Oscar Tabarez’s team started off their campaign with a conventional 4-4-2 formation against the Egypt and Saudi Arabia but could only labour to a solitary goal victory in both the matches. Against Russia, Tabarez slightly tweaked his team formation with 4-2-3-1 and the impact was immediate. We all witnessed a certain fluidity in their game. The backline of Uruguay has looked extremely strong and well set. They are the only team not to have conceded a goal so far. Fernando Muslera has hardly been tested because of superb performances by the quartet of Martin Caceres,Sebastian Coates, skipper Diego Godin and Guiilermo Varela. The midfield although relatively young and inexperienced, has been quite compact . Rodrigo Bentacur and Matias Vecino has had a decent tournament so far. They might have some concern regarding their two wing-halfs in Christian Rodriguez and Carlos Sanchez both of whom looked slow and a little rusty going forward.The deadly striking force of Cavani and Suarez has picked up their game at the right moment and is amongst goals. They are surely giving nightmares to Pepe & Co.. Overall the team of Uruguay looks well settled and ready to face the Potuguese.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Uruguay (4-2-3-1): Muslera; Varela, Gimenez, Godin, Caceres; Nandez, Vecino; Rodriguez,Bentancur,Cavani; Suarez.
In their opening match,Cristiano Ronaldo’s splendid hattrick salvaged a crucial point against a much superior Spanish side. Ronaldo almost single handedly took the game to his opponents and rescued his team from the jaws of defeat with a wonderful free-kick in the dying minutes of the game. In the second match too, Ronaldo scored early to give his below average Portuguese team a crucial victory against an impressive Moroccan side. Portugal faced off with Iran in their last group match but were extremely lucky to escape with a draw and qualify to the knock-out stages. Coach Fernando Santos has had very limited options and Portugal’s bench looks below par. Portugal’s backline is a major concern area as the quartet of Raphael Guerreiro,Jose Fonte,Pepe and Cedric Soares has looked extremely vulnerable against average sides like Morocco and Iran. Had it not been for their goalkeeper Rui Patricio , Portugal would have suffered badly. Their midfielders too have performed on and off. Although William Carvalho and Jao Mario have looked solid but their ball distribution has been far from satisfactory. Introduction of two veterans Ricardo Queresma and Adrien Silva in the last match and their brilliant performances will definitely give some hope to Coach Fernando Santos. Portugal will also be boosted by the return of Joao Moutinho from injury.Cristiano Ronaldo has been outstanding throughout the tournament so far and has scored 80% of the team’s goals. The football fraternity will be eager to watch another classic Ronaldo performance tomorrow. It has to be now seen how far can Ronaldo pull his team single handedly in the tournament.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Portugal (4-4-2): Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Quaresma, Carvalho, Moutinho, Silva; Ronaldo, Guedes.
My prediction: Uruguay 2-1 Portugal