|Cavani double sends Uruguay through to the quarter finals (Image from Times of India)|
Uruguay and Portugal kicked off in Sochi with a point to prove. Both teams came into this match with unbeaten group records which merely served to disguise laboured performances against the minnows of Egypt and Saudi and near embarrassment at the hands of Iran. It was fair to say that France had no reason to be losing any sleep over whoever would end up victorious come 9pm.
With this in mind both sides seemed determined to make the world take notice and the opening few minutes reflected this ambition. Uruguay started off with high intensity employing the attacking press to make life difficult for the Portuguese defenders, while Portugal themselves showed signs of rapid counter attacking play with Joao Mario producing a promising cross, after good work down the left, being Portugal’s most notable chance in the opening minutes. Ronaldo’s intentions were clear from the opening stages as well. He was often found drifting out to the left and right trying to cover all attacking positions and singlehandedly drag his country through, a responsibility that he seemed to be carrying from the opening game of the tournament.
This world cup has spoiled fans with some world class goals and six minutes in we were about to get another to add to the collection. Cavani demonstrated some of the positional versatility he would continue to show throughout the match, collecting the ball in the middle third on the right before spreading an accurate diagonal ball to the far side of the pitch where it was collected by Suarez. The understanding Cavani and Suarez have developed over the last 12 years as Uruguay’s main strike partnership shone through, with Cavani making a bursting run to the far post where he was picked out by Suarez to chest the ball past Rui Patricio in goal.
If Uruguay’s literal game plan was to score early then defend then they stuck to it well. The early pressing play quickly disappeared and they were content to sit deep and let Portugal pass around in front of their penalty box. Mario and Bernardo Silva continually saw a lot of play down the left and right channels but more often than not their crosses were foiled by the wing backs. For all Portugal’s attacking they could not find the magic moment with crosses over hit and long range shots blocked. Ronaldo in particular cut a frustrated figure with his building up desperation accumulating in attempted long range shots, the majority of which were blocked straight away. Meanwhile, Uruguay carried an ever present threat, deliberately leaving Suarez attacking, on the shoulder of the Portuguese defence, who lived up to his reputation and caused a nuisance on the rare occasion the ball left Uruguay’s half. The first 45 minutes finished with Uruguay on top, clever link up play on the right involving Caceres and Nandez enabled them to have a rare moment in the Portugal penalty area. With Cavani effectively dropping back into a five man midfield, Portugal had failed to break them down and would have to look to the second half to get back into the match.
The second half started similarly to the first. Uruguay, hoping that early intensity would pay off in the same way it did earlier, showed willingness to win the ball back high up the pitch causing difficulty for Portugal’s back four. And once again in similar fashion to the first half Portugal were restricted to patient play around Uruguay’s penalty box, but were met with disciplined defending, in particular from star man Godin who made a few key interceptions. Portugal seemed the more likely to score after the break and after a short corner, the product of some dangerous crosses, a cross into the box was met with a strong header by Pepe who sent the ball past Muslera for the Portugal equaliser. With the match tied a 1-1 it could have gone either way and Portugal had definitely gained some momentum after the goal. However, their joy was short lived as a long ball forward, trademark of Uruguay’s night, was poorly dealt with by the Portugal defence. The ball came to Cavani again on the left corner of the box who curled in a perfectly placed shot past Patricio for his second strike of the night.
With Uruguay leading, the tide continued to be in Portugal’s favour with Bernardo seeing a lot of the ball and often acting as Portugal’s catalyst for attacking play. Yet it wasn’t until the 70thminute when any real trouble was caused for Uruguay with their keeper spilling a cross which didn’t quite make it to the feet of any Portuguese players. Portugal continued to be frustrated and even the introduction of Quaresma who provided some much needed width did not do much to challenge the Uruguay defence. Ronaldo’s night was summed up with a 90th minute shot from distance which was wide enough to not cause Muslera any worry.
|A frustrating night for Ronaldo (Image from the BBC)|
The final whistle could not come quick enough for Uruguay who were showing clear signs of tiring in the closing stages, and when it did come was succinctly met with jubilant scenes from the Uruguay team and bench. Their regimented team will now have the world watching.
Uruguay Player Ratings
1 Muslera (6) – Remained unchallenged the majority of the night apart from his mishandling of a cross late into the match. Nothing he could do about the goal.
22 Caceres (7) – Defended well against threats from Mario down the left and was involved in some good link up attacking play.
2 Gimenez (7) – Part of a solid Uruguay defence which restricted Portugal to long range shots
3 Godin (8) – Made some key interceptions and generally played up to his high standard.
17 Laxalt (7) – Defended well against the ever present thread from Bernardo.
14 Torreira (5) – Generally the midfield area was dominated by Portugal which made it difficult for him to contribute
8 Nandez (7) – Threatened down the right hand side and was involved in promising play around the penalty area
15 Vecino (6) – All-round solid but unspectacular performance.
6 Bentancur (5) – Quiet night for the midfielder.
9 Suarez (8) – Lived up to his reputation and caused a nuisance for Portugal despite often being isolated up front.
21 Cavani (9) – Showed great effort throughout the match putting in a strong defensive shift and showing his attacking prowess with two well worked goals.
Portugal Player Ratings
1 Rui Patricio (6) – Wasn’t very active with his team mainly attacking but could not do anything about the two goals
15 Pereira (6) – Generally a quiet night for Portugal’s defender
3 Pepe (7) – Defended well when called into action and dragged his team back into the match
6 Fonte (7) – Contained Suarez well for the majority of the night and helped limit Uruguay’s chances.
5 Guerreiro (7) – Showed great effort in his involvement with Portugal’s build up down the left.
11 Bernardo Silva (8) – Involved in most of Portugal’s play but had to wait until the second half to cause Uruguay any real issues at the back.
23 Adrien Silva (7) – Looked dangerous down the right-hand side with Bernardo.
14 William Carvalho (6) – Carried out his role but majority of his play was sideward.
10 Mario (7) – Showed good attacking intent and was one of Portugal’s main threats.
17 Guedes (5) – Fortunate to be starting with his lacklustre performances so far. Inexperience showing through.
7 Ronaldo (6) – Tried to do everything and be everywhere when Portugal mainly needed an aerial threat in the box. Limited to long distance shots none of which trouble the Uruguay keeper.
MAN OF THE MATCH – CAVANI
|Dark horses Uruguay will fancy their chances against France (Image from the Indian Express)|