Edinson Cavani put together an impressive performance last night in Sochi, sealed by a killer brace, to push Uruguay ahead of Portugal and into the Quarter Finals. La Celeste’s next opponent will be Didier Deschamps’ French squad, which they will face on Friday. Cristiano Ronaldo found himself trapped into coach Oscar Tabarez’s spider web, and ultimately had to bid farewell to World Cup 2018, just like Leo Messi had to do earlier in the afternoon.
A bitter end for the incumbent European Champions, which however proved to be too dependent on their global star during the tournament, to go farther than this. Young prospects like Goncalo Guedes or André Silva failed to live up to their expectations, or at least to act as an effective supporting cast to CR7. Old lions like Ricardo Quaresma did what they could to help, but at the end of the day Portugal’s run in World Cup 2018 was simply Cristiano Ronaldo’s run. Probably the last one, considering that the genius from Madeira is 33 years old, and chances to see him again in Qatar look dim.
Conversely, La Celeste continued to impress, relying on a rock solid defense and a stingy striking force – which does a few things, but does them terribly well. Oscar Tabarez’s defensive performance in the first half was simply flawless, with Pepe’s equaliser in the 54th minute being the only situation in which Uruguay’s watchdogs were slightly caught by surprise.
El Maestro also found in Rodrigo Bentancur and Nahitan Nandez two reliable side midfielders, after a shaky start, and the feeling between his striking duo Edinson Cavani & Luis Suarez is so strong that you would think the two must have grown up together playing as kids in some courtyard of Montevideo. All taken into account, thinking about the World Cup taking the way towards the Rio de la Plata for the third time in history is not unrealistic, even if France and Kylian Mbappé may have something to say about that…
The match in Sochi had a vibrant start, with El Matador Cavani suddenly breaking the balance after six minutes already. Uruguay’s goal was the result of a harmonious duet between the two charrua forwards: Cavani served Suarez from the left side, and Barcelona’s striker promptly reciprocated the courtesy with a sharp cross that leaped over Portugal’s defense, and found El Matador’s killer header.
Barcelona’s Pistolero risked making it two in the 20th minute already, when Jose Fonte knocked him down at the limit of his own box. From the free kick spot, Suarez challenged goalie Rui Patricio, who answered promptly diving to his left. Cristiano Ronaldo’s reply, also from a free kick, came 10 minutes later. CR7 rolled up his shorts before executing (was that supposed to scare anybody?), but his shot hit the Celeste wall, then Lucas Torreira cleared the area with a spectacular overhead kick.
Pepe eventually gave the first disappointment to the charrua defense after three clean sheets in a row, when a cross from the left by Raphael Guerreiro found the Besiktas’ center back free to hit in the middle of the box. However, the balance lasted only an additional eight minutes, and was shattered again by a Cavani touched by grace.
El Matador didn’t even have to stop or think, when a pass from the right by Bentancur in the 62nd minute came along his way: He just hit the ball with his right foot, producing a stunning drive shot that swirled past Rui Patricio, to give the ultimate 2-1 to the Uruguayans. Then he had to leave the pitch due to an injury to his calf, which will keep the Celeste supporters in apprehension in the coming days. Cristiano Ronaldo sustained the rival as he had to abandon the field limping – one of those nice fair play moments we would like to see more often on a football pitch.
Keeper Fernando Muslera gave a minor heart attack to his fans as he missed an easy blocking of the ball twice in the same action, and was spared by Bernardo Silva who shot out of target. But no other major threats came to haunt Oscar Tabarez’s dreams, despite his counterpart Fernando Santos sending in Ricardo Quaresma, Adrien Silva, and then Manuel Fernandez. Uruguay controlled the game with experience, and risked scoring another one when Suarez served substitute Cristian Rodriguez, for a shot that hit the wrong side of the post in the 92nd minute.
CR7 eventually scored a yellow card that would have kept him out of the Quarter Finals, had Portugal made it to them. Which didn’t happen, in a day where a combined 10 Ballon d’Or were pushed out of the tournament, and it were rather the Celeste to advance some strong claim over the title. But that will depend much on the conditions of Edinson Cavani, the man the last night put an end once and forever to Cristiano Ronaldo’s dream of winning a World Cup.
June 30, 2018 – World Cup Round of 16
SCORERS: 7′ Cavani (U), 55′ Pepe (P); 62′ Cavani (U)
|URUGUAY (4-3-1-2): Muslera; Caceres, Gimenez, Godin, Laxalt; Nandez (81′ Sanchez), Torreira, Vecino; Bentancur (63′ Rodriguez); Suarez, Cavani (74′ Stuani) Coach: Tabarez|
|PORTUGAL (4-4-2): Rui Patricio; Ricardo Pereira, Pepe, Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; Bernardo Silva, William Carvalho, Adrien Silva (65′ Quaresma), Joao Mario (84′ Manuel Fernandes); Goncalo Guedes (74′ André Silva), Cristiano Ronaldo. Coach: Fernando Santos|
REFEREE: Ramos (Mexico)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Cristiano Ronaldo (P)