Two goals from Edinson Cavani lead Uruguay to the World Cup quarter-finals, and sent Portugal home with a strange feeling of being better.
Better than in the previous games, first of all, but the bar was so low that playing more effectively than in the group stage was insufficient to continue in the tournament. And Portugal may have left with the feeling that it was better than Uruguay, that they deserved another outcome, but that was the bitter conclusion reached by many of their opponents in Euro 2016 or this World Cup.
The truth is that Cavani’s first goal, with just seven minutes played, made Uruguay extremely comfortable. Sitting in the armchair, with a beer can in the hand, watching a World Cup match. Óscar Tabárez’s side retreated for the last 30 meters with a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the edge of the area. And Portugal respected this request in the first half: they settled there, in the offensive midfield, but practically did nothing to bother goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Even with constant exchanges of positions between João Mário, Bernardo Silva and Gonçalo Guedes, the European champions were attracted to the outside and restricted to crosses, which was to Diego Godín and Jose Maria Giménez’s immense satisfaction.
Curiously, it was from a set-piece that Portugal scored the equalizer, at minute 55, with Pepe taking advantage of the fact the Uruguayan duo were more worried about Cristiano Ronaldo.
That goal put Pepe as the top Portuguese player on the leader board. However, it was a bad aerial approach from him, only seven minutes later, that was relentlessly punished by Cavani as he put Uruguay ahead again.
At half-time Fernando Santos had moved Bernardo Silva to the middle, on Cristiano’s back, and Portugal gained more offensive diversity. The Manchester City player had already left good indications in the first half, but as a”playmaker” he took off for a frankly good display. He even had Portugal’s best chance to equalize, after Muslera dropped the ball, but the shot went over.
William Carvalho put in another very good performance, but despite this improvement Portugal could not get around Uruguay’s good defensive organization. Gonçalo Guedes was the weakest link once again, and André Silva was unable to do better one more time.
Cristiano Ronaldo looked for space on the left side, but shot at the “celeste” wall a couple of times. Manuel Fernandes came in to try his luck from distance, as soon it was noticed, but Portugal were unable to avoid elimination. In this art of pragmatism Óscar Tabárez’s Uruguay already has a doctorate, whereas Portugal earned the degree only two years ago.