Euro 2016 winners Portugal take on 2010 World Cup fourth-placed side Uruguay in the last 16 of the tournament on Saturday.
A late Iran penalty saw Portugal qualify for the knockout stages, having snatched a late draw with Spain thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick and beating Morocco by a slim margin.
Coach Fernando Santos will have no issue upsetting the odds after Portugal’s slow start, having coached them to European Championships glory two years ago despite winning only one game in 90 minutes.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, he knows Ronaldo and his fellow forward players will have to be in top form to upset a Uruguay side who are yet to concede a goal in this World Cup, and one who found their scoring boots in a 3-0 win over Russia to top their group last week.
“They are a typical South American side,” said Santos.
“It’s not just in this World Cup that they have not been conceding goals. It has been like that for the whole of 2018. Oscar Tabarez is the longest-serving international manager. That means he has a very strong relationship with his players.”
One of Uruguay’s biggest concerns will be that of Ronaldo, who has four goals in the tournament so far, and could have had another had he not missed a second-half penalty against Iran.
Tabarez, who is in his 14th year as Uruguay manager, albeit across two spells, is understandably planning that his side will have to work as a team to contain the five-time Ballon D’Or winner.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best strikers in the world,” Tabarez said. “He has a great potential obviously and in planning the match, especially focusing on the opponent and considering the level that every player has … what Ronaldo has on top of the qualities is that he’s the leader of that team.
“That is an additional factor. There is not a single player that can contain him there. Not just [Diego] Godin. We will have to work collectively in order to try and contain him or in order to try and limit the effect he can have.”
Clubless William Carvalho could miss the game for Portugal, having been absent from training in the build-up with a minor injury, but Gelson Martins and Raphael Guerreiro are fit to start.
Uruguay defender Jose Gimenez, who scored their first goal of the tournament, should also be ready to return after sitting out their final group game with Russia.
- This will be the third encounter between Uruguay and Portugal and their first at the World Cup. They haven’t faced each other since July 1972 when they drew 1-1 at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium. Portugal are so far unbeaten in their two previous meetings (W1 D1).
- Penalty shoot-outs excluded, Portugal have lost only one of their last 17 games at major tournaments (W8 D8), a 4-0 defeat against Germany at the 2014 World Cup. However, they have lost their last three games in the World Cup knockout stages (1 goal scored, 5 conceded).
- Since the format of the World Cup changed in 1986 to include a round of 16, Uruguay have been eliminated on three of the four occasions they’ve reached that stage, losing in 1986, 1990 and 2014, but progressing in 2010 against South Korea.
- Uruguay will be looking to win their opening four games at a World Cup tournament for only the second time after 1930 when they won the first ever World Cup.
- Uruguay are yet to concede a single goal at the 2018 World Cup, facing just six shots on target in three games – the last South American team not to concede in their first four matches of a World Cup tournament were Brazil in 1986.
- All five of Uruguay’s goals at the 2018 World Cup have been scored from set-pieces (3 from corners, 1 from direct free-kick and 1 from indirect free-kick). Meanwhile, three of Portugal’s last four goals have come from outside the box.
- Luis Suarez has scored seven World Cup goals for Uruguay, second only to Oscar Miguez (8) – Suarez scored a brace against South Korea in his only previous World Cup appearance in the round of 16 back in 2010.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has so far failed to score a single goal for Portugal in the knockout stages of the World Cup: 424 minutes, 0 goals. However, he did score a hat-trick against Spain in his previous game at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium.
- If he plays, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (37) will equal Bastian Schweinsteiger (38) as the player with the most appearances at World Cups + European Championships.
- This is Fernando Santos’ fourth major tournament in a row as manager. He’s 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 the very least World Cup 2018 round of 16 with Portugal.