Portugal booked their spot in the last 16 of the World Cup with a game to spare after a battling 2-0 win over Uruguay.
Uruguay always looked like a team that would relish spoiling play, and that’s exactly how the first half started. Portugal dominated the ball, but the disciplined and physical South Americans were hard to break down.
Half chances came and went for Portugal and William Carvalho would have expected to do better with an early effort from long range after great play from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo himself had a look at goal when he fired a cross to the back post, but was pushed out before he could shoot.
Although Portugal had more of the ball, Uruguay had the best chances of the first half. The brilliantly dynamic Rodrigo Bentancur was able to weave his way through the Portuguese defense and found himself one on one with Diogo Costa. But his composure left him at the decisive moment and the Porto stopper was able to erase it.
Portugal started the second half much better and Joao Felix found himself in a great position down the left channel to open the scoring. However, he did not find the target.
However, this proved to be a warning shot and Portugal took the lead just minutes later. Bruno Fernandes clipped a delicious ball into the box and Ronaldo looked to get the tiniest touch. Despite the celebrations, however, it didn’t look like it and Fernandes’ cross fell straight in.
Uruguay then had to abandon their splurge and come out much more, although it took them a while to find their stride.
It wasn’t until Maximiliano Gomez and Luis Suarez replaced Darwin Nunez and Edinson Cavani up front that they were able to apply pressure. Gomez rattled the post with a fine effort from the outside while Suarez could only find the side netting as the ball fell to him inside the sixteen yard box.
Another substitute, Giorgian De Arrascaeta, didn’t waste a great chance when he couldn’t beat Costa when he got through on goal.
It all looked set for a grandstand finish, but VAR had other ideas. Jose Gimenez was penalized for throwing the handball in this area and fell backwards. It was highly contested but Fernandes didn’t care and converted from the spot to put Portugal through to the knockout stages.
Fernandes even grabbed a hat-trick in the last seconds of the match, but the post denied him.
For stat buffs, it was Portugal’s first World Cup victory over South American opposition since beating Brazil at Goodison Park in 1966.
1. Portugal (4-3-3)
GK: Diogo Costa – 7/10 – Came up big with a crucial save in the first half.
RB: Joao Cancelo – 6/10 – Neither marauding nor maddening.
CB: Ruben Dias – 7/10 – Quality and assured.
CB: Pepe – 6/10 – His nous was important on the night, although rarely felt all that safe.
LB: Nuno Mendes – 5/10 – Didn’t do anything wrong but didn’t influence the game either. Off with an injury in the first half.
CM: Ruben Neves – 5/10 – Did okay but didn’t seem to fancy the physical stuff as much as others.
CM: William Carvalho – 6/10 – Important physical presence in the midfield.
CM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Scored the opener, although he might have to fight Ronaldo for it. Literally. Nearly had a hat-trick.
RM: Bernardo Silva – 6/10 – Typically neat and tidy, but not much more.
CF: Cristiano Ronaldo – 7/10 – He might be a fading force, but he was still a thorn in the side of Uruguay’s experienced defence all night.
LF: Joao Felix – 6/10 – Always threatened to do something but never actually did.
SUB: Raphaël Guerreiro (42′ for Mendes) – 6/10 – Slotted in nicely.
SUB: Rafael Leao (69′ for Neves) – 6/10 – Lively.
Manager: Fernando Santos – 7/10 – Wasn’t pretty but got his team through a tough test.
2. Uruguay (3-5-2)
GK: Sergio Roche – 6/10 – Well-protected in the main by the Uruguay defence until they left him horribly exposed for the first goal.
CB: Jose Gimenez – 5/10 – Out of step with his central defensive partners too often but very unfortunate to give away a penalty.
CB Diego Godin – 6/10 – A fading force. His brain is still sneaky but the body isn’t quite as willing.
CB: Sebastian Coates – 6/10 – Dependable but not dominant.
RM: Mathias Olivera – 6/10 – Had the energy and the will but not the quality.
CM: Federico Valverde – 6/10 – Some way short of his best.
CM: Rodrigo Bentancur – 7/10 – Uruguay’s best player on the night for sure.
CM: Matias Vecino – 5/10 – Never stamped his authority on the game.
LM: Guillermo Varela – 5/10 – Didn’t really impress at all.
CF: Darwin Nunez – 5/10 – Will be disappointed with his performance.
CF: Edinson Cavani – 5/10 – Not at his best but poorly supported.
SUB: Giorgian De Arrascaeta (62′ for Vecino) – 6/10 – Made a difference but missed his big chance in front of goal.
SUB: Facundo Pellistri (62′ for Godin) – 6/10 – Injected some pace and purpose into the Uruguay attack, although little product.
SUB: Maximiliano Gomez (72′ for Nunez) – 6/10 – Rattled the woodwork and unlucky not to score.
SUB: Luis Suarez (72′ for Cavani) – 6/10 – Missed a great chance from inside the six-yard box.
SUB: Matias Vina (86′ for Oliviera) – N/A
Manager: Diego Alonso – 6/10 – Bit unlucky as his subs should have got him something.