The FIFA World Cup 2022 will be held in Qatar from 20th November to 18th December. 32 teams will compete across 64 matches, and Lovin Malta will be sharing its analysis, predictions, and key battles on the pitch ahead of some of the most important matches.
The two favourites to go through this group had quite contrasting opening games to their Qatar 2022 campaign. Whilst Uruguay where nullified by South Korea in a goalless draw, the floodgates were completely open for Portugal’s game against Ghana, one which they just edged 3-2.
For Os Navegadores this game represents an opportunity to safely seal their spot in the Round of 16, while La Celeste will be hoping to upend Portuguese hopes and take control of the group. These two teams do have a history at the tournament, with the Uruguayans edging the Portuguese 2-1 in their last encounter in the Round of 16 at the Russia 2018 edition.
Can Portugal avenge that loss this evening and seal their chance of progression? Or will the never-say-die Uruguayans break Portuguese hearts once more and set the group up for some last match drama? A very intriguing test for both teams await.
Tactics and Formations
Fernando Santos is not a coach to alter plans at the sight of difficulty. You should expect to see Portugal to line up in a 4-3-3, with plenty of options in both the middle of the park and on the wings to supplant their talisman, the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo.
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A squad which is jam packed full of talent, some key calls await Santos to see who will lineup to combat the hard-working Uruguayans.
As for Diego Alonso’s team, I expect them to line up either in a 4-3-3 to match up with Portugal man for man, or alternatively line up in a 4-4-2 formation which allows them to switch from a compact defensive shape to an attacking overload with more ease.
Game management will be key for the Uruguayans, they are aware that they will be under the cosh from Portugal for parts of the game and they will need to be able to withstand this pressure should they see off the Maroons.
Key Battles on the Pitch
1) Ruben Dias (25yo Manchester City (ENG) Centre-Back) VS Darwin Nunez (23yo Liverpool FC (ENG) Centre-Forward)
These two players are already aware of each others strengths, having played against each other twice this season throughout the English domestic calendar, making this clash all the more intriguing!
Ruben Dias is an absolute colossus at the back for club and country, blessed with both a powerful physique and mental attributes that belie his age.
He knows what he will be up against in the form of Nunez, another physical monster blessed with atheltic and technical ability that causes nightmares for the average defender. I am looking forward to see how they fare up against each other on the biggest stage of all.
2) Ruben Neves (25yo Wolverhampton (ENG) Central- Midfielder) VS Federico Valverde (24yo Real Madrid (ENG) Central-Midfielder)
These two nations are littered with talent in the middle of the park with plenty of top-level, dynamic midfielders available for both squads. In my opinion, the cream of the crop for both sides should square up in a fascinating manner, as Neves at the base of Portugal’s midfield will look to halt the vibrant Valverde from surging forward.
Neves is a deep-lying playmaker, with a brilliant range of passing and a true weapon in set-piece situations, whilst Valverde is a box-to-box dynamo capable of defending, creating, assisting and scoring himself. The midfield battle will arguably play an important role in who comes out on top in this one, so expect sparks to fly between these 2 stars!
3) Cristiano Ronaldo (37yo Unattached Central-Striker) VS Diego Godin (36yo Velez Sarsfield (ARG) Centre-Back)
If Nunez and Dias know each other quite well, then Cristiano and Godin must be simply tired of seeing one another!
The former Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid symbols clash once more in their long careers, having been regular opponents on the field from 2009 onwards. Despite all the off-field drama surrounding CR7 this season, there is no denying that this player still has it to deliver and will be looking forward to get one over Godin in Portugal colours.
The Sky Blues captain will likewise love nothing less than to nullify his arch rival and help plucky Uruguay to a massively important victory.
Not an easy game to call as this could go anywhere, but I have to say I was not really convinced by how Portugal handled their backline in their opening game and I believe they will be punished for it. 1-0 to Uruguay!
Who do you think will win this feisty match?