Weblog: The football punter

Portugal can overcome Uruguay in close tie

Round of 16
ITV, 7pm Saturday

Portugal have a knack of getting results when the pressure is on and they look decent value to pip Uruguay to a place in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Luck was on Portugal's side at Euro 2016 but they also showed a steely side which is making them tough to beat again this summer.

The Iberians have not been particularly impressive in the group stage but they were on course to finish top of Group B, ahead of well-fancied Spain, until a contentious VAR decision awarded Iran an injury-time penalty on Monday.

Portugal had to withstand a late flurry of Iranian pressure but they got the job done, extending their unbeaten sequence in competitive games to eight.

There are similarities between Portugal's uncomplicated style of play and the tactics favoured by Uruguay and the lack of variety could contribute to a tense, low-scoring game.

Both play with two strikers but depend on a solid defensive base and rely on moments of individual brilliance.

Uruguay are blessed with world-class forwards, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, who are approaching the end of their careers.

But Oscar Tabarez's side have not been creating many chances and their pre-tournament status as possible dark horses took a couple of early knocks as they laboured to unconvincing 1-0 wins over Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

They were much better against Russia and finished the group stage as one of only three teams with a 100 per cent record.

However, Group A was probably the softest of the lot and the task of beating Russia was made easier by the hosts' decision to rest key playmaker Aleksandr Golovin.

Tabarez tinkered with his formation against the Russians, opting for a midfield diamond rather than a flat four, and it seemed to suit the players better.

But there is no disguising the lack of quality width in the Uruguayan squad and that could become a major problem now that they are coming up against stronger opposition.

Portugal have had similar problems with Bernardo Silva, their most talented winger, failing to live up to expectations in the first two games.

The Manchester City star was dropped for the third game against Iran and his replacement, veteran wide man Ricardo Quaresma, rose to the challenge by scoring the opening goal.

With Quaresma and Bernardo Silva in the squad, Portugal have better options than Uruguay on the flanks but the big difference between the teams is Ronaldo, who can usually be relied upon to rise to the big occasion.

The 33-year-old almost single-handedly steered Real Madrid to the 2018 Champions League final and is the man Uruguay must stop if they are to keep their dream of a third World Cup triumph alive.

Portugal to qualify

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Match in Focus

17:30 TODAY BT1

Huddersfield v Liverpool

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Huddersfield have failed to score in four home matches this season
Expert verdict
Liverpool’s terrific start to the season saw them talked up as serious title contenders but, while that is still the case, the Reds entered the international break without a victory in four matches in all competitions. However, it’s hard to argue with short prices about Jurgen Klopp’s team. The Terriers are yet to record a home victory this season, or even score a home goal.