Portugal produced a sensational performance at the Lusail Iconic Stadium as they defeated the South Americans 2-0 to advance to the Round of 16 for the fifth time with the game against South Korea yet to come. This will allow Portugal to rest star players such as Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes if they feel the need to and go into the knockout stages with everyone fit and refreshed.
The European outfit looked a bit slow in the first half, quite unable to break through the Uruguayan midfield of Varela, Valverde, Vecino, Bentancur and Olivera.
As had happened against Ghana, Portugal"s breakthrough came in the second half as Bruno Fernandes lofted a curling ball into the box and into the net, a goal that was initially awarded to Cristiano Ronaldo for supposed contact. Closer analysis showed that whilst Ronaldo did move towards the ball, it missed him and instead went straight in and was later confirmed as being Fernandes’ goal/
Uruguay were denied twice late on, Maxi Gomez"s shot rattling the woodwork and Luis Suarez latching onto Arrascaeta"s set piece but striking the side net.
Selecao increased the lead through Fernandes in the 93rd minute as the United player kept his calm, before slotting home a cool penalty.
Bruno Fernandes: Player of the Match
The Manchester United forward had a night to remember, being the most important player for Fernando Santos" side, spurring them to life on several occasions.
The 28-year old held the midfield well for his country, dropping back occasionally to create goal scoring chances. He was the engine of the team today and his spectacular performance was highly rewarded with a well deserved brace. Fernandes was denied a hat trick in injury time as his low shot from outside the Uruguay box rattled the bar after beating Sergio Rochet.
Fernandes has being highly instrumental to the Portuguese team at Qatar 2022. He has been involved in four of Selecao"s five World Cup goals, assisting Joao Felix and Rafael Leao against Ghana and finding the back of the net twice against the Uruguayans. He put on a real Budweiser man of the match performance against Diego Alonso"s side, making a total of 12 forced turnovers, the highest in the game, and could be up the charts in the coming matches of their World Cup campaign.
Edinson Cavani and Darwin Nunez"s Flaws
Diego Alonso"s decision to play Cavani and Nunez upfront backfired as both men lacked the clinicality to either put their team in front. Darwin Nunez was the weaker of the duo, as the Liverpool man had a poor game for his country. Nunez has been taking time to settle in the English Premier League with his form inconsistent at best. It was a similar story here
He failed to make the most of his chances against Korea and was also slow in decision making, somewhat killing the tempo of Uruguay"s game down the left flank, and also being unable to find his way past the South Korean defence for the greater part of the game. The game against Portugal drew a number of similarities as Nunez was one of the most silent players on the pitch, almost always getting intercepted, dispossessed and lacking the positioning expected of him as a striker.
For Edinson Cavani, some expected that the 35-year old would start the game against Korea and it was a bit of a relief when Alonso finally brought him on to change the game. With little time to spare, El Matador couldn"t make an impact yet with more time on the pitch, things could have been different. Managers live and die by these decisions and on this evidence, Alonso has been left wanting.
Ronaldo and United Team Mate Look United
After Cristiano Ronaldo"s bombshell interview with Piers Morgan, it definitely looked like the 5-time Ballon d"Or winner lost a lot of support from the coach, the owners, the fans. One man who might not have been left out of this saga is Fernandes. It"s understable as to why Fernandes and other United players may have felt let down by Ronaldo"s rather reckless attitude. There were reports that the two players had a ‘frosty’ meeting ahead of the World Cup but on the pitch the pair look united and hungry for World Cup success.
As a defender, you cannot afford to lose your man, you have to stay close to your man him as Saudi Arabia did against Lionel Messi in the second half of the upset win over Argentina. Whilst the 37-year old Ronaldo lacks the pace he once had, he still has has the ability to get into position, time his leap and get ahead of his markers. There is no room for error. Future opponents will need to get right what Uruguay got wrong.
Uruguay Hanging on by a Thread
The Uruguayans are now in one of the tighest situations when it comes to progressing from the group. With just a point and no goal to show for in this campaign, they may very well be bidding the tournament goodbye for the earliest time in 20 years(since the 2002 World Cup).
To advance to the knock-out stages, Diego Alonso"s men have to dig very deep to find a win against Ghana. It"s a non-negotiable factor here. Anything less than a win would guarantee elimination. In fact, a win doesnt make them certain qualifiers as South Korea beating Portugal would potentially leave goal difference as a deciding factor and the Uruguayans goal shy efforts could yet cost them dear.
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