SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo has scored four goals at this year’s World Cup. Uruguay has conceded none.
That’s going to make for an interesting match when Portugal faces the two-time champions on Saturday in the round of 16.
Uruguay is best known for its forward line, specifically Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, but it has thrived defensively both in Russia and in the lead-up to the tournament. It’s the only team at the World Cup yet to allow a goal all year.
“We know that in 2018 they haven’t lost any of their six games and didn’t concede any goals,” Portugal right back Cedric Soares said Wednesday. “That is something to pay attention. It’s a team that has quality.”
The last time Uruguay allowed a goal was in a 4-2 victory over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying. That match was in October 2017.
In Russia, Uruguay won Group A after defeating Egypt and Saudi Arabia 1-0 and the host nation 3-0. The South American team didn’t falter on defense even when regular starting central defender Jose Maria Gimenez couldn’t play against Russia because of a muscle injury.
Sebastian Coates played in the middle of the defense against the hosts, but Uruguay’s team doctor said Wednesday that Gimenez has a good chance of returning for Saturday’s match in Sochi. He is expected to practice normally with the rest of the squad on Thursday.
“He has improved and we are optimistic that he will be among those available to play (against Portugal),” Uruguay doctor Alberto Pan said.
Gimenez is a key part of the Uruguayan defense that will try to stop Ronaldo. He and Diego Godin play for Atletico Madrid and know Ronaldo well from their many matches against Real Madrid in Spain. Ronaldo got off to a great start in Russia, scoring a hat trick against Spain and the winner against Morocco, but he struggled in the 1-1 draw against Iran, when he missed a penalty kick.
Gimenez and Godin are also important for Uruguay in set pieces. Gimenez scored the late winner against Egypt with a header, and it was Godin who helped disrupt goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais as Suarez got the winning goal against Saudi Arabia. Godin also was involved in the team’s third goal against Russia, when Cavani took advantage of a rebound following the defender’s close-range header.
“We have to know that every play will be dangerous,” Soares said. “We will have to be very focused every time there’s a set piece.”
Portugal and Spain finished with five points each in Group B but the Portuguese ended second because if had fewer goals scored.
“Our biggest goal so far was to advance from the group stage. Now we can focus on this next game against Uruguay, which we know is a great team,” Soares said. “We are the European champions and we have shown many times that we have quality.”
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