Uruguay v Portugal: Uruguay – 15/8
Uruguay were not impressive in the early stages of their Russian manouevres, stealing victory at the death against Egypt through a late header, and grinding out a grim 1-0 win over Saudia Arabia.
Their third game offered more hope for those who fancy the South American’s prospects as legitimate contenders for a third World Cup win, 3-0 win over the host, who had looked to be gaining momentum prior to the meeting with the South Americans.
Most impressively of all, the Uruguayans defence have barely looked troubled by an opponent. Admittedly, they’re benefitting from a weak group, but their keeper’s not made a significant save in 270 minutes of football so far.
Portugal have had a much tougher path. Iran pushed them to the limit and they survived by the grace of a last minute miss in their final group game. They’ve given us some memorable moments already – Ronaldo’s seismic hat-trick iagainst Spain, and Quaresma trademark curler spring to mind – but their important players won’t get space and time from Uruguay, and the men in light blue should have enough fire-power here with Cavani and Suarez capable of unlocking any defence.
To Be Booked: Pepe – 11/8
Since his heyday as Sergio Ramos’ partner in the Madrid central defence, the 35-year-old has a reputation for sporadic bursts of violence and an inclination towards the inflammatory that few contemporaries could rival.
This is the World Cup, however, so you might expect him to try to keep it together, if only because the threat of suspension ought to focus his mind. So far his record is unblemished.
But he is up against a fellow master of mayhem Luis Suarez here, and while he hasn’t bitten anyone recently, we find it hard to believe he’s mellowed out so much that he’ll not find a way to rile up the peevish Portuguese centre-half. 11/8 looks a reasonable price in a game that is sure to be tightly contested.
Red Card in the Match: Yes – 7/2
For similar reasons this larger priced card runner also appeals. Uruguay’s reputation for ball-playing brutality isn’t entirely deserved by this particular squad – they’ve only collected one booking through the opening three games – but they haven’t played a team on Portugal’s level yet.
Also, the stakes haven’t been as high. this game will likely be touch-tight to the very end, and tempers are sure to fray as one side or another approaches their exit.
Boots, elbows, maybe even heads, could fly as ninetieth minute draws nearer – we saw Ronaldo escape a red in his last game for reasons unknown – and the sparks at this Sochi showdown could really light up Saturday night.
- Bet summary: A Same Game Multi on these three bets pays over 25/1, or combining Uruguay win with a red card in the game returns 18/1 with Paddy Power.
*All odds correct at time of posting