WORLD CUP 2018

Portugal set for robust Uruguay

European champions treating last-16 match against in-form South American side as a 'final'

SOCHI • Portugal are preparing for their World Cup last-16 encounter with Uruguay as if it were a 'final', but the Portuguese are not worried about their opponents' robust style and strength in the air, full-back Cedric Soares said yesterday.

Portugal squeezed into the knockout stages with a 1-1 draw against Iran and will face one of the in-form sides in the tournament.

Uruguay have won all three of their group games, and they have added some midfield guile to the physical style for which they are known and feared.

"There's no doubt that Uruguay have excellent players. They have an excellent team. They were world champions twice," Soares told reporters ahead of Saturday's clash.

"But we also have our weapons. We are going to have time to prepare for this encounter in the best way possible. Needless to say, we have our qualities and we really believe in them.

"We're European champions and we've already shown many times what quality we have, and we're going to continue doing that.

"We have to attack the ball, and treat every ball as dangerous, always be aware. That's how we're going to face every instance of the game against Uruguay."

THE RONALDO THREAT

We're going to treat him with the same respect. You do not prepare for a game against one player but against a team.

SEBASTIAN COATES, Uruguay defender, on facing the Cristiano Ronaldo threat.

Uruguay have one of the best recent records of all 32 World Cup sides, having won all six of their games this year.

But Soares said Portugal were taking a difficult tournament one game at a time and every match is decisive from now.

"This has proved to be difficult for all the teams involved; it's a very competitive World Cup. Our main goal, of course, was to qualify and we've done that," he added.

"Now we are preparing for the last 16. That's very tough, because every game from now on is a final. We're going to face them that way."

Uruguay are wary of facing Portugal's free-scoring forward Cristiano Ronaldo but are preparing for the showdown not just against one player and believe the outcome will come down to details.

Ronaldo pulled his team through the group stage by slamming in four goals and, as their talisman, the 33-year-old is the player the squad look to for a moment of magic.

"They're a team that have been playing together for a while. They have very important players, like Cristiano," Uruguay defender Sebastian Coates, who plays for Portuguese club Sporting, told reporters yesterday.

"While he's a worldwide star, we're going to treat him with the same respect. You do not prepare for a game against one player but against a team."

At least Uruguay's tough backline will likely put up a fight against the talented Real Madrid player, as they have yet to concede a goal at the tournament in Russia.

"We all defend. The entire team sacrifices itself," said Coates.

Uruguay midfielder Matias Vecino added that Saturday's game in Sochi will be unpredictable and will come down to details.

"I think it will be a balanced game. It will be defined by details. One-off plays will decide the game," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'Portugal set for robust Uruguay'. Print Edition | Subscribe