SOCHI, Russia – Edinson Cavani upstaged Cristiano Ronaldo, first with his head and then with his right foot, and sent Uruguay to the World Cup quarterfinals.
Cavani scored twice and Ronaldo none Saturday to give Uruguay a 2-1 victory over Portugal.
On the same day Lionel Messi was sent home in Argentina’s loss, the other “GOAT” at this tournament was also eliminated. It was two weeks ago that Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the same stadium against Spain, stroking his chin after the first goal to imply he was the “greatest of all time.”
There was no goal from Ronaldo this time. Everywhere he went, the Portugal great was hounded by two or three Uruguayan defenders.
“We had our chances, but this is football,” Ronaldo said. “We have to keep our heads high. We gave our best. The team played well. As the team captain I am proud of this group. Everyone worked hard to make sure things went well.”
It was Cavani who instead took the spotlight. He combined with Luis Suarez to complete a series of precision passes to give Uruguay the early advantage with a header in the seventh minute. And after Portugal equalized on Pepe’s header in the 55th minute, it was Cavani again finishing a perfect Uruguay counter in the 62nd with a shot from just inside the penalty area that caught Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio slightly out of position and curled inside the far post.
“The truth is, it was really exciting,” Cavani said. “There aren’t words to describe this.”
Cavani now has three goals at the World Cup, but limped off in the 70th minute with an apparent injury and had to be replaced. He was helped to the sideline with his arm around Ronaldo’s back.
“Right now we are only worried, but we don’t know how grave this injury is,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said.
Uruguay, a two-time champion that reached the semifinals at the 2010 World Cup, will next face France on Friday in Nizhny Novgorod.
Portugal had chances in the second half, including a frantic final few minutes of stoppage time with claims of a possible handball in the penalty area from a late corner kick. But there was no late video review to benefit Portugal as Ronaldo’s fourth World Cup came to an uneventful end.
Like Messi, Ronaldo has never scored in a knockout round match at the World Cup.
“I said no team can win alone. I never said Cristiano wants to play alone,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “The team didn’t win because Uruguay scored twice. Usually we also score.”
Ronaldo had one clean shot the entire 90 minutes and it came in the opening moments of the match, directly into the arms of Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. His shadows were Uruguay defenders Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, who know Ronaldo quite well from their clashes between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league.
Ronaldo was involved somewhat in Portugal’s goal, even if he didn’t come close to getting a touch on the cross. Ronaldo ran in front of Pepe and drew the attention of both Gimenez and Godin. Pepe came in behind and Uruguay finally surrendered its first goal of the tournament in the 55th minute.
Being level lasted only seven minutes. The last time Uruguay won its first four games in the World Cup was 1930 when four wins earned it the title.
“Up until yesterday I think people were saying, `Well, Uruguay won the group stage but the group was easy.’ Well, I don’t think Portugal is easy,” Tabarez said.
It was a five-pass buildup from deep in its own end that culminated in Uruguay’s first goal, and the final two passes were perfect.
Cavani sent the ball across the field to Suarez, who aggressively dribbled to the top corner of the penalty area. Cavani continued his run and Suarez curled the pass to the back post while Portugal defender Raphael Guerreiro was watching.
“That was an incredible play,” Santos said. “Uruguay had never scored like that. You can’t control that situation.”
While Uruguay is advancing, it now must be concerned with the status of Cavani after he limped off the field and immediately called for a substitute.
Keys to the game
Stopping Ronaldo. It was that simple for Uruguay.
Ronaldo had company everywhere he went on the field and Portugal’s supporting cast was unable to provide enough help.
And although Uruguay finally conceded a goal, it was the first this year in the team’s seventh match. The Uruguayans had gone 598 minutes since November 2017 without allowing a goal. The last team to score on Uruguay before Pepe’s goal was Bolivia in World Cup qualifying.
“We have a very strong team in terms of mindset,” Tabarez said. “We prepared for this.”
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