Uruguay primed to quell Ronaldo threat

Cristiano Ronaldo was lucky to stay on the pitch after an altercation with Iran’s Morteza Pouraliganji. AFP

"It's a match between the two teams, Portugal and Uruguay, and we'll do everything we can to win".

The summer in Russian Federation has already upstaged quite a few recent editions of the FIFA World Cup with its vivid moments and the knockout stages kick off with two captivating contests in France vs Argentina and Uruguay vs Portugal.

"There's not a single player who can contain him".

Portugal left back Raphael Guerreiro, winger Gelson Martins and midfielder William Carvalho all sat out training on Thursday with minor muscular complaints. "You have a coach who has been working with them for 12 years, very experienced, very high-quality", he said, adding that they have yet to concede a goal in 2018.

The squad is fully fit and nobody is suspended, but boss Fernando Santos has some big decisions to make. Tabarez had devised his successful tactical system at a time when Uruguay did not boast of quality central midfielders, but the emergence of the likes of Vecino and Bentancur has comforted the veteran manager.

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Ronaldo began the tournament in spectacular fashion, with his stunning free kick completing a hat trick and snatching a 3-3 draw against Spain at Fisht Stadium. "That means he has a very strong relationship with his players".

This will be a busy evening for the referee, not least with Uruguay's Atletico Madrid centre-halves Diego Godin and Jose Jimenez up against Portugal's Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. However, they have lost their last three games in the World Cup knockout stages (1 goal scored, 5 conceded).

A flawless Group A campaign saw Uruguay come through unscathed but Portugal, who finished runners-up in Group B, will be their toughest test so far when the teams meet in Sochi on Saturday.

"They have great players like we do, but we have the best player in the world", Soares told FIFA.com, with Ronaldo set to equal ex-Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger's record of 38 appearances combined in World Cup finals and European Championships. He has reached the knockout stages on each previous occasion: Euro 2012 quarter-finals & World Cup 2014 round of 16 with Greece; Euro 2016 winners and at least World Cup 2018 round of 16 with Portugal. "That doesn't cross our minds, but if it's boring and we win.", said Uruguay's veteran coach Oscar Washington Tabarez on Friday, looking ever more frail at the age of 71. Bet on Portugal to be the last team standing in what might prove to be a battle of attrition.

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