Portugal have become the third nation at the Fifa World Cup to secure their place in the round of 16 after two matches, following France and Brazil. A Bruno Fernandes brace was enough for Fernando Santos’ side to defeat Uruguay, whose World Cup hopes are hanging by a thread.
In a game where Portugal struggled to create a great deal of chances, they found a way through a fortunate cross-shot from the Manchester United star, who then later kept his cool to wrap-up the three points from the penalty spot to end Uruguay’s efforts for an equaliser. While it wasn’t the prettiest of performances from Portugal, Uruguay’s own mistakes and lack of urgency in the first half contributed to their victory.
Fernandes was the standout player in red and green. Not only were his goals what separated the two sides, he was the most influential player on the pitch and he came close to netting a hat-trick at the death as he was denied by both Sergio Rochet and the woodwork.
In what was a relatively dull opening 45 minutes, Rodrigo Bentancur, who has developed an eye for goal with Tottenham Hotspur of late, came close to putting Uruguay ahead. The midfielder did brilliantly to work his way through the Portuguese defence only to fire his shot straight at Diogo Costa. It was a half not blessed with chances and despite having 70% of the ball, Portugal didn’t even register a shot on target.
Fernando Santos’ side had a great chance to break the deadlock shortly after the restart. Bernardo Silva was able to drive the ball forward and release the ball to Joao Felix, but instead of playing the ball across to Fernandes for what looked like a tap-in, Felix hit the side netting. Moments later they were ahead. A cross from Fernandes into the path of Ronaldo was missed by the forward and found its way into the far corner despite the latter trying to claim it was his.
Uruguay soon sprung into life and started to ask some questions of Portugal’s back line. They were able to put some nice passages of play together but let themselves down in the final third with either a touch or the final ball. It certainly opened up the contest as attacks were constantly going back and forth. One stalwart was taken off for another as Edinson Cavani was replaced by Luis Suarez, as Uruguay pushed to find a way back into the match.
Fellow substitute Maxi Gomez almost had a dream impact as he rifled an effort off the right post as Uruguay put together one of their most positive moves in the match. The players in white were suddenly showing a lot more urgency to get the ball forward and commit bodies, but they kept letting themselves down when it came to the final third.
Suarez was up next to come close for La Celeste. A free-kick from the left led to a scramble in the box and Suarez was able to stab at the ball but he could only find the side netting. Giorgian de Arrascaeta almost had Uruguay back in the game when he was released through on goal but his shot was tame and easily dealt with by Costa as teammates to his left were screaming at him for not passing the ball.
Any chance of a result for Uruguay were ended late on as a penalty was awarded by a VAR check for a dubious handball decision. Fernandes stepped up and coolly slotted to the bottom-left corner to get the job done. The attacking midfielder came close to completing a treble as he saw a volley blocked by Costa and a rifled shot rattle the post.
This result leaves Uruguay needing a victory against Ghana in matchday three, the team who they controversially knocked out in 2010 thanks to a Suarez handball denying the Black Stars a goal. It certainly won’t take much to stoke the fire in this particular match. But that’s not all, their fate is not completely in their hands. They are now reliant on Portugal beating South Korea, along with themselves beating Ghana to have any chance of reaching the knockout stages. Their missed chances tonight could be costly.