Could Uruguay vs Portugal be the dirtiest game in World Cup history?

Cristiano Ronaldo was lucky to stay on the pitch after an altercation with Iran’s Morteza Pouraliganji. AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo was lucky to stay on the pitch after an altercation with Iran’s Morteza Pouraliganji. AFP

No World Cup is truly a World Cup without a bruising, cynical encounter between two teams who will not give an inch, so welcome to the No. 1 contender for Russian Federation 2018's most belligerent game.

Uruguay's Edinson Cavani has scored three World Cup goals, one v Germany in 2010, one v Costa Rica in 2014 and one v Russian Federation in 2018.

Oscar Tabarez said there is not one player who can contain Cristiano Ronaldo as the Uruguay boss highlighted the need for a team effort to stop the Portugal captain in the World Cup last 16.

Suarez claimed that he has a good relationship with fellow striker Cavani.

"It's not just in this World Cup that they have not been conceding goals".

Uruguay switched from the usual 4-4-2 formation to a more fluid 4-3-2-1 against Russian Federation and reaped the benefits, but Oscar Tabarez will probably revert to type in expectation of a low-scoring game.

Uruguay have not exactly set this tournament alight with their attacking play either, but they are more adventurous and have a few more ideas when they come forward.

"Portugal improved their chance of winning the competition when they drew their opening match against Spain".

These two countries with a combined population of 13.5 million have always been overachievers on the worldwide scene - the last decade under Tabarez has seen two-time former winners Uruguay reach one World Cup semi-final and win one Copa America, while Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016.

"I believe Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best strikers in the world", Tabarez said.

Cristiano Ronaldo and co were not at all convincing in the group stage, and scraped into the knockout rounds with a 1-1 draw against Iran.

Since the format of the World Cup changed in 1986 to include a round of 16, Uruguay have been eliminated on three of the four occasions they have reached that stage, losing in 1986, 1990 and 2014, but progressing in 2010 against South Korea.

Despite its small population, Uruguay's proud World Cup history including trophies in 1930 and 1950 and a fourth place finish in 2010 means fans' expectations are high, and Tabarez said nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

Fernando Santos does not have any fresh injury concerns to contend with.

Portugal, too, are prepared to fight hard and, at times, illegally, to get a result. "It doesn't get any better".

The former Real man has shown in the past his penchant for underhand tactics know no bounds, and he proved it yet again during Portugal's 1-0 win over Morocco when he threw himself theatrically to the ground following a playful back-slap from Mehdi Benatia.

Uruguay, by contrast seems to be easing its way through the gears after an unblemished group stage that suggests the best is yet to come.

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