WORLD CUP ROUND OF 16 MATCH REPORT: Uruguay 2-1 Portugal

A sublime double from Edinson Cavani sent Uruguay into the quarter-finals of the World Cup where they will play France who defeated Argentina earlier in the day.

There was plenty of intrigue going into this contest. Was Cristiano Ronaldo going to join Lionel Messi in an early exit from the World Cup? Could the Portuguese captain come out on top against El Clasico opponent and Messi’s clubmate, Luis Suarez? Would a stubborn Uruguayan defence with six successive clean sheets be broken down? Do either side have the ability to win the whole tournament?

If there were any doubts over whether this would be a cagey affair, they were soon put to bed in the opening minutes. Both teams played with open, offensive football but Portugal arguably looked the most dangerous side as Ronaldo launched a long-range strike straight at Fernando Muslera.

Yet Uruguay have a dangerous attacking duo in Suarez and Cavani, who have both scored in the last three World Cups, and they broke with devastating effect on eight minutes. Cavani swung a pinpoint cross-field pass out to Suarez who controlled with aplomb.

The controversial striker then cut inside before returning the favour to Cavani who continued his run to ghost in behind two Portugal defenders and nod Uruguay ahead from an acute angle. A telling partnership between two players born less than three weeks apart in the same town.

However, Portugal, who were dominating possession, refused to be frozen out and Jose Fonte should have done better with a header from Raphael Guerreiro’s cross from a short corner.

The game continued to be played at a relentless tempo but both back fours appeared solid and organised against some of the best strikers on the planet. The next opportunity fell to Uruguay as a clever low free-kick from Suarez was palmed away by Rui Patricio.

Uruguay began to drop deeper, content on soaking up pressure in front of the Atletico Madrid central defensive pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez.

Such a tactic took some of the intensity out of the contest, underpinning why Uruguay have such a good defensive record, thus forcing their opponents to feed off scraps as Gonçalo Guedes feathered a header over.

As the half filtered to a close, one last chance fell to Cavani after nothing short of a booted clearance from Godin into the Sochi sky bounced into the path of the Paris Saint-Germain striker but he could not manufacture a productive contact. As for Ronaldo, all 24 of his first-half touches came outside the Uruguay penalty area.

The restart followed a similar pattern as Portugal found no change from an energetic Uruguayan outfit in the opening ten minutes. Their lack of creativity was emphasised by an ambitious snapshot from Guerreiro drifting comfortably over Muslera’s crossbar.

Portugal were hunting for any lapse in concentration from the South American unit and they found it on 55 minutes.

A short corner made its way to Guerreiro who floated a cross to the unmarked Pepe and the former Real Madrid defender got one over the Atletico duo as he headed Portugal level. It was the first goal Uruguay had conceded in 2018.

Yet, just as Portugal began to rekindle the energy they started the game with, Cavani showed his class once again. Muslera’s long punt was not dealt with and Rodrigo Bentancur fed the ball out to Cavani.

The striker took aim from the corner of the penalty area with his first touch and curled a delightful strike past Rui Patricio to restore Uruguay’s advantage.

Portugal looked to respond and they should have equalised just minutes later. Muslera made a hash when coming to collect a Guerreiro cross and the ball landed at the feet of Bernardo Silva.

The attacking midfielder shifted the ball into space but blazed over with Muslera out of the game. Meanwhile, Cavani limped off following his memorable double.

The European side continued to push Uruguay back and another chance fell to left-back Guerreiro but he could only lash over after picking up a loose ball from a corner.

Similarly, substitute Manuel Fernandes was ambitious with a distant drive that nestled comfortably in the gloves of Muslera before the quiet Ronaldo snatched an effort wide.

Ronaldo received a booking at the end of the contest as his frustrations boiled over with the referee and that proved to be his last action in the competition.

Uruguay now face an exciting quarter-final against France which sees a fascinating subplot that includes Suarez taking on Barcelona colleague Samuel Umtiti and Godin and Gimenez directly facing clubmate Antoine Griezmann.