Portugal vs. Uruguay, 2 p.m. ET, Fox

  • Portugal +194
  • Uruguay +185
  • Draw +187

Bet to Watch:

Uruguay to advance -112 (5Dimes)

The old cliche in boxing is that ‘styles make fights.’ This match is no different. Both Portugal and Uruguay have a well-earned reputation for being pragmatic and hoping for a bit of magic from one of their world-class talents. On paper this has all the makings of an ugly, defensive slugfest and has a real possibility of going all the way.

While that formula is what sent Portugal through Group B — not to mention that it won Portugal a European title two summers ago — I do wonder if Uruguay is straying from the script a little bit. It may look like Uruguay stuck to their guns in their first two matches against Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but they put up 1.7 expected goals (xG) against the former and 1.3 against Saudi Arabia. In their third match, Uruguay completed the Group A sweep with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Russia in their first “real” test.

Portugal on the other hand, posted 0.5 xGs in a 3-3 draw against Spain, 1.4 in a 1-0 win over Morocco and 0.5 in their 1-1 draw against Iran. If it wasn’t for Ronaldo’s heroics and a mesmerizing goal from Ricardo Quaresma, we could be talking about Iran’s chances right now instead of the Iberians’.

But that’s the thing with Portugal. They have Cristiano Ronaldo, and their squad is littered with players such as Quaresma, who may not be a 90-minute soldier but has magic in his feet, and that always gives them a puncher’s chance.

While Ronaldo is the best player on the pitch, the Sky Blues are overall the better team. Uruguay’s centerback duo of Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin is one of the best in the tournament, and the two stalwarts are very familiar with Ronaldo as they both ply their trade for La Liga’s most sound defensive club, Atletico Madrid. Gimenez and Godin are in a different class compared to Portugal’s Jose Fonte and Pepe. The two veteran defenders can be solid on their day, but they are more of an unknown quantity at this point in their careers and they will be tested by Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

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The betting odds echo my sentiment here. Uruguay are the slightest of favorites around the market, and money has come in on the draw. The total — which is as low as 1.75 at Bookmaker — also indicates that this is not an easy one to call.

In the end, I think Uruguay’s talent will win out. The odds imply that Los Charruas have ~ 52.8% odds of advancing, and I think that’s low. They’re the better team, so that’s where I’m looking.

Follow Michael J. Leboff on Twitter
@TheBigLeebowski