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Uruguay relishing underdog status against Portugal, says Bentancur

Uruguay midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur attends a press conference ahead of the team's match against Portugal. Photo: Pablo Porciuncula/AFP

Midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur said on Sunday that twice former winners Uruguay are relishing their status as underdogs ahead of facing Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal at the World Cup in Qatar.

It was a similar scenario four years ago when an Edinson Cavani brace helped the South Americans stun the then-European champions 2-1 in the last 16.

And following their drab 0-0 draw with South Korea on Thursday, the Celeste are looking forward to tyring to overturn the odds once again in their Group H clash at the Lusail Stadium on Monday.

“We respect everyone, but the less you know about Uruguay the better it turns out for us,” said Tottenham player Bentancur.

“It’s better not to attract attention, to be humble, respect our opponents, and play all the same.

“At the last World Cup we did it really well, starting from behind.”

Much attention will be focused on Portugal’s impressive array of attacking talent that includes Joao Felix, Rafael Leao, Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, as well as Ronaldo.

But in veteran centre-back Pepe they have one of the most experienced players in the tournament.

Coach Fernando Santos said Pepe would play on Monday, which would make him the second oldest outfield player ever to appear in a World Cup match, after Cameroon great Roger Milla.

Bentancur is looking forward to coming up against the Brazilian-born Porto defender.

“We all know Pepe, I played against him in 2018, he’s a great player, he’s had an incredible career,” said Bentancur.

“Playing him will be a good test for us, but we also have our weapons. They have experience, we do too, and we’ll try to attack their weaknesses.”

Portugal have identified Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde as Uruguay’s danger man.

“He’s a tough player to stop. He is a good team player, a strong player,” said Bernardo.

“He’s one of the best midfielders in the world, not just with the ball but without the ball too. He does a lot to create space for his team mates.”

Valverde, 24, was named man of the match against South Korea in his first ever World Cup match and has already won the Champions League and La Liga with Real Madrid.

He has really kicked on this season, scoring more goals in 20 Real matches this season than in his previous 148 games for the club across four campaigns.

“He’s still the same lad, humble, a companion, always participating very naturally,” said Uruguay coach Diego Aonso.

“His performance is stupendous, extraordinary, we’re very happy to have him.”

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