La Celeste and Seleccao will face off today in what looks to be a clash of personalities and club rivalries between Luiz Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The duo are familiar enemies having been involved in multiple duels at club level with Barca and Real respectively in La Liga how- ever, the battle turf has shifted away from Spain at least for now, as the Fisht Stadium in Socchi plays host to this heavyweight cracker.
The minimalists are meeting each other in the round of 16. Uruguay romped through the group with minimal results against Saudi Arabia (1-0) and Egypt (1-0) and an exciting 3-0 victory over hosts Russia.
Three wins in a row now opens the door for La Celeste to win four matches at the World Cup for the first time since hosting, and winning, the tournament in 1930. It would be a historic moment for Uruguay, who last managed to get past the round of 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Af- rica, where they finished fourth.
The optimistic outlook, however, received a damper with news emerging that Atlético Madrid defender José Gimenez, who also missed the match against Russia, could be out against Portugal on Saturday.
“We are optimistic that he will be back in the squad,” team doctor Alberto Pan told the media on Thursday. But Gimenez struggled at the public training session and had to work indi- vidually. His absence would be a major blow for Uruguay. La Celeste are very much defined through their defensive work and will have their work cut out on Saturday when they face the world’s best forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
In many ways, Portugal are de- pendent on the Real Madrid forward, even though it was Ricardo Quaresma, who scored the goal that saw Portugal ultimately go through to the next round after a 1-1 draw against Iran. Despite a spectacular 3-3 draw against Spain and advancing out of Group B Portugal overall have shown lacklustre perfor- mances at this tournament.
Head coach Fernando Santos seems to very much rely on the defensive tactics that saw his country win the 2016 Euro- pean Championships in France. Whether the plan to physically overpower teams will work in the light of the extra travel from Moscow to Sochi – a first-place finish would have allowed the Seleção das Quinas to remain in Moscow – will be the main question.