World Cup: Godin ready to bare his teeth

Diego Godin, who plays for Atletico Madrid, will be up against Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid today when his Uruguay side take on Portugal in the last 16. Uruguay are the only team who have yet to concede a goal in Russia, while Ronaldo has already scor
Diego Godin, who plays for Atletico Madrid, will be up against Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid today when his Uruguay side take on Portugal in the last 16. Uruguay are the only team who have yet to concede a goal in Russia, while Ronaldo has already scored four - more than the three he netted at three previous Cups.PHOTO: REUTERS

Uruguay captain to lead tight defence against Portugal's Ronaldo, his familiar foe in Madrid

ROUND OF 16

Uruguay v Portugal

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SOCHI • The man who has marshalled the best defence in the World Cup so far will relish the task of trying to stop his old foe Cristiano Ronaldo when Uruguay and Portugal meet in Sochi today.

The Madrid derby comes to the shores of the Black Sea in the last 16 with Uruguayan captain Diego Godin, of Atletico, and his club team-mate Jose Gimenez coming up against Real and Portugal's five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

It will be a fascinating battle at the Fisht Stadium with Ronaldo enjoying his best World Cup campaign but Uruguay are the only side to come through the group stage in Russia without conceding a goal.

Godin is an expert at keeping clean sheets, as the leader of an Atletico defence that is the most formidable in the European club game - they kept 34 in all competitions last season - and of a Uruguay side that have not conceded a goal this year in six games.

  • 13

    Number of times Diego Godin has stopped Cristiano Ronaldo in 20 club meetings.

Ronaldo, though, has already scored four times at this World Cup, including a treble on his last visit to Sochi, where Portugal drew 3-3 with Spain.

In the last two years, the 33-year-old has scored two hat-tricks for Real against Godin's Atletico, having also emerged victorious in two Madrid derby Champions League finals.

But the rugged and brave Godin, who needed reconstructive dental surgery after having three teeth punched out in an aerial challenge with Valencia goalkeeper Neto earlier this year, has also prevented Ronaldo from finding the net in 13 of their last 20 meetings.

Godin, battle-hardened after years of working under Atletico coach Diego Simeone, has long been unapologetic about his country's uncompromising style.

 
 

"You can't turn your back on your collective DNA," the 32-year-old said before Uruguay won their three games to finish top of Group A. "We've improved in possession thanks to the younger players but we haven't lost that commitment, that fight, the sacrifice and solidarity, the determination to overcome adversity."

Gimenez, who scored Uruguay's late winner in their opener against Egypt, is set to rejoin Godin in central defence today after missing the 3-0 win over Russia due to injury.

"They are a typical South American side," said Portugal coach Fernando 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."

Ronaldo, with 85 goals in 153 appearances for his country, is looking to get back on the scoresheet after having a penalty saved in Portugal's 1-1 draw with Iran.

The Uruguayans hold their opponents in equally high regard, conscious that Ronaldo is supported by younger talents like Bernardo Silva, 23, and Goncalo Guedes, 21.

"We will mark him with the same respect we mark everyone, despite him being a superstar," said defender Sebastian Coates of Ronaldo. "You don't prepare a match just looking at one player."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'Godin ready to bare his teeth'. Print Edition | Subscribe