A superb brace from Edinson Cavani sent Uruguay on their way to a 2-1 victory over Portugal in the round of 16 at the World Cup, booking a spot in the last eight where they will face France.
Uruguay took the lead on seven minutes through their dynamic duo. Edinson Cavani played a long switch to Luis Suarez, before continuing his run to the back post and thundering in a header from Suarez’s return cross.
Pepe found the equaliser 10 minutes into the second half, finally breaking the Uruguayan resistance with Portugal’s first real attack, as the Besiktas defender rose highest to fire a bullet header past Fernando Muslera and into the net.
Cavani scored a beautiful second just past the hour mark, taking up a good position in the left channel before bending an exquisite first time strike into the right side of the net.
With 20 minutes to play, Bernardo Silva had a huge chance to haul Portugal level again after Muslera spilled a ball in the box, but the Manchester City playmaker fired his shot over the crossbar.
Cavani takes the reins
The PSG forward turned in one of the performances of the tournament so far, single-handedly guiding his country over the line and into the last eight.
He was an ever present thorn in Portugal’s backline with his height, physicality and technical ability allowing him to pose a threat in a number of different ways, creating a handful for the opposition to deal with.
Working alongside Suarez’s guile and intensity, Cavani was able to take the game by the scruff of the neck and sprinkle his magic on proceedings.
Uruguay have the luxury of arguably the best attacking tandem at the World Cup, and with Cavani in this form and Suarez always capable of turning a match on its head, they could be very tough to stop in the latter stages of the tournament.
Oscar Tabarez will be sweating on the fitness of his match-winner as he hobbled off the pitch with 15 minutes to play, as they gear up to face France in the quarter finals.
Ronaldo joins Messi on the plane
After his superb hat-trick in Portugal’s opening match against Spain followed by the decisive strike against Morocco, the reigning Balon D’Or winner will have to pack his bags and head for home.
Coming into the World Cup after sensationally winning Euro 2016, Portugal were filled with hope for a successful tournament, and with Ronaldo in top form after the first two games, all things pointed towards a deep run in Russia for the Selecao.
Though trying as he might, captain Ronaldo was unable to prevent his country from losing their fourth consecutive knockout game in a World Cup finals.
Ronaldo struggled for consistent touches in advanced areas, and was often forced into cutting inside and letting fly from range, which more often than not saw his shot cannon off the nearest defender and back the other way.
Uruguay set up perfectly to stop him from being the difference maker that he so often is in matches, especially in big matches such as this. Their holding midfielders ensured Ronaldo never had a clear shot at goal, providing a staunch presence in front of the back four to keep him at bay.
For now, it is back to the drawing board for Ronaldo and Portugal, as sights turn to the European Championships in two years’ time, and possibly one last World Cup for Ronaldo in 2022.
Uruguay flying under the radar
Uruguay are not just a two man team, with Cavani and Suarez there to haul them out of danger every time they are staring down the barrel of defeat, but they are a fantastic team with an excellent manager that are more than capable of making it very far at this World Cup.
The spirit with which they play, sticking into tackles, putting their bodies on the line to get to the ball and working hard for their teammates sets them apart from almost all other teams in the draw, and gives them an added edge besides just the football playing.
The back four deserve just as much credit as the front two do, as Pepe’s goal was the first time La Celeste’s defence has been breached since the turn of the year.
Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez provided the bulk of the defensive work, being situated at the heart of the backline, but Diego Laxalt was particularly impressive in an unfamiliar left back position, winning the ball and stopping crosses coming in, before using his pace and tenacity to get on the front foot.
The French will ask different questions of Tabarez’s side in the quarter-finals, with the height of Olivier Giroud accompanied by the pace and brilliance of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, but it is a task that Uruguay will be up for as they bid for a third World Cup crown.