Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be stopped by one player, admits Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez

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Oscar Tabarez will task his whole Uruguay team with stopping Cristiano Ronaldo after admitting no one player can shackle Portugal’s dangerman in their last-16 clash.

Uruguay have reached the World Cup’s knockout phase as the only nation yet to concede a goal, though that record is likely to come under serious threat when they face Ronaldo in Sochi.

Only Harry Kane has scored more in Russia than the 33-year-old, whose form has been so good that Donald Trump even asked his Portuguese counterpart if Ronaldo would ever run for president during a White House visit this week.

Ronaldo is likely to come up against arguably the strongest centre-back pairing at the tournament in Atletico Madrid duo Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez.

However, Tabarez insists neither man is capable of handling Ronaldo on their own.

“I believe that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best strikers in the world,” the Uruguay coach told a pre-match press conference.

“What Ronaldo has on top of all of these qualities is that he’s the leader of that team. That is an additional factor.

“There’s not a single player who can contain him. Not just Godin. We will have to work collectively in order to try and limit the effect that he can have.”

How Godin and Gimenez fare against Ronaldo is one of the intriguing subplots surrounding this fixture, though both sides’ defensive records have some fearing a dull contest.

Oscar Washington Tabarez

After their 3-3 draw with Spain in their opening World Cup game, Portugal have not conceded a goal from open play and they shipped just one in their four knockout games at Euro 2016.

Asked whether Saturday’s contest with Uruguay could be “boring”, Portugal boss Fernando Santos told a press conference: “No, I don’t think so.

“I think it’s going to be a great match. Two teams are going to try and win – each team using their weapons.

“I hope it’s going to be a great clash between these two teams because it’s very different from the group stages – either you win or you lose. Portugal wants to win.”

Tabaraz, meanwhile, is not concerned with the level of entertainment.

“I don’t know what the match will be like,” he said. “Maybe you are worried that it might start being boring; we don’t even think about that. We’re there to win.”

Despite the high-stakes nature of the fixture, Tabaraz has reported his camp is a relaxed one having been impressed by what he has seen in Uruguay’s victories over Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

“The last three matches we’ve started showing what we’re trying to achieve and it’s become apparent on the pitch,” he said.

“I believe that we are closer than ever to achieving our real objectives. We want to achieve this at the World Cup.

“Above and beyond the importance of the match – what it means to win or lose – I think we have a certain calmness and serenity in terms of facing it.”

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Harry Kane put team first, England coach Gareth Southgate reveals

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Gareth Southgate could not have been more impressed by captain Harry Kane‘s response to seeing his Golden Boot tilt put on hold, praising the sharpshooter’s collective focus ahead of the World Cup knockout phase.

With progress to the last-16 assured with a match to spare, the Three Lions boss used Thursday’s Group G clash against Belgium as a chance to give squad players a run out and rest star men.

Speculation was rife as to who would be dropped in Kaliningrad, and skipper Kane was reduced to a watching brief in the 1-0 loss despite scoring five goals across the matches against Tunisia and Panama.

“I felt the need to sit with him, but he was brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” Southgate said of the striker.

“He totally understood 100 per cent team first.

“He said ‘look, I know everyone says I want the Golden Boot – of course it’s something I want to do – but the main thing is getting the team through the first knockout’.

“He was excellent on that, showed real leadership and understanding of the big picture.”

Kane will come straight back into the side for what Southgate called England’s “biggest match in a decade”.

Should they lose to Colombia, the boss is sure to come under pressure for his eight changes against Belgium as well as his reluctance to bring on his skipper and chase the draw that would have seen them top Group G and face Japan.

Southgate, Manager of England

Asked if he had put himself under pressure by making so many alterations in Kaliningrad, Southgate said: “Well, maybe I have, maybe I haven’t. That is the least of my concerns.

“The most important thing for me is the players are in the best physical condition for the game.

“I don’t think mentally we lose anything because they know we’ve made changes and they know Belgium weren’t their full team as well.

“So, we’re in to big matches where margins will be fine and judgement on me will be extremely harsh. That’s why we’re here.

“We want to be in those games. I wasn’t so comfortable with the love-in (before the game), to be honest, so nice that there’s a little bit of an edge back.”

Southgate is hoping to lead England to their first knockout win since 2006 in Moscow, where he believes his side will rise to the “fantastic challenge” posed by Colombia and reach the quarter-finals.

Success at the Spartak Stadium would highlight the progress in the two years since England’s last major tournament ended with a humiliating Euro 2016 exit to Iceland.

“Many different reasons,” Southgate said of England’s knockout struggles. “But you’re playing against the best players in the world.

“We’ve at times had a squad with real top players and at times we’ve had a squad with not such outstanding players who’ve been in those knockout situations.

“There’ve been many different reasons for not getting over the line. Some disciplinary, some have been penalty shoot outs.

“But more often than not we have not been able to win those matches in normal time or in extra time.

“So loads of different reasons, but the main one being the level of the opposition, playing against the very best.

They pose you different technical and tactical challenges as we had (against Belgium).”

But star-studded Colombia are sure to prove a far tougher test than Belgium’s back-ups in Moscow.

“It’s exciting,” Southgate said of the clash. “We’ve got the chance to be the team that changes that.

“It’s one of the reasons why we’ve done what we did (against Belgium), to give ourselves the best possible opportunity of doing that.

“For me, it’s going to be a brilliant game to be involved in.

“It looked like Colombia had 30,000-40,000 fans in the stadium. I went to two of their games in Brazil (four years ago) – they were incredible occasions.

“They have some top players, some top attacking players in particular.

“But we also have some really good players who are full of belief and looking forward to this challenge.”

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Gareth Southgate preparing England to avoid penalty pain at World Cup

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Gareth Southgate knows all about penalty shootout pain but says luck is no excuse, which is why England have been studying and developing strategies since March.

After finishing runners-up in Group G, the Three Lions head to Moscow on Tuesday to take on Colombia in a tough-looking last-16 World Cup clash.

England may have to go the distance in their bid to win a first knockout match since 2006, meaning their vulnerability from the spot could become clear once more.

The senior team have lost six of their seven penalty shootouts at major tournaments, including the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany when Southgate missed his key spot-kick.

But the former defender is determined his England side will be better prepared as they gear up for the World Cup knockout phase.

Asked if he has learned from Euro 96, manager Southgate said: “Absolutely, no question. I have had a couple of decades thinking it through.

Gareth SOUTHGATE 2

“In defence of the staff there at the time, penalty shootouts weren’t as regular then.

“The depth of knowledge and understanding, we didn’t have as much information as we do now.

“FA Cup ties went to two, three replays so we weren’t in those situations as often as we are now.

“Definitely it’s not about luck. It’s not about chance. It’s about performing a skill under pressure.

“There are individual things you can work on within that. We have studied it.

“There are things that can be unhelpful in terms of their preparation for players at that moment.

“As a staff knowing who is in charge of which bits, who needs to get out of the way, who can speak with clarity to the players.

“There is lots we can do to own the process and not be controlled by it.”

Southgate volunteered for his penalty 22 years ago but realises it is “probably braver” not to take one if you are not confident.

England’s coaching staff have regularly updated a “more considered list” of takers based on training, meaning they already have an idea about the order.

Individual processes and techniques have been focused upon in preparation, as well as the collective approach to a shootout.

“Making sure that there’s a calmness, that we own the process, that it’s not just decisions that are made on the spur of the moment or even behaviours around the team,” Southgate added.

“That it’s calm, the right people are on the pitch, the right staff are on the pitch. It doesn’t become too many voices in people’s heads. We’ve looked at a lot of things in detail.

“We’ve finalised that in the lead up to this game as well. I think that’s all you can do. You keep preparing in the right way possible and try and affect the things you can.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold laughed and shook his head when asked if Southgate had been taking any penalties in training but said “everyone’s working hard” to be ready.

“Obviously you don’t want it to get to penalties but it’s football at the end of the day and nothing really goes to plan when you’re out there on the pitch,” the England right-back said.

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