Uruguay 2, Portugal 1
Round of 16, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
It was supposed to be a match about two of the world’s most talked about strikers. Cristiano Ronaldo’s four goals in the group stage were the reason Portugal qualified for the World Cup’s knockout round. Uruguay’s Luis Suarez’s controversial World Cup past is the stuff of legend and the reason for cat calls around the world.
Instead, it was Edinson Cavani, Uruguay’s other forward, who sent La Celeste on to the quarterfinal with spectacular goals in Uruguay’s 2-1 victory. It will advance to play France in Nizhny Novgorod on July 6.
In a game in which both sides tried to play possession football, Uruguay was able to hold the ball when it mattered (though, according to FIFA match statistics, Portugal won possession 62 percent of the match). Portugal could not extricate the ball from the feet of Cavani or Suarez, who teamed up for the match’s first goal in the seventh minute.
Cavani switched the ball across the field 40 yards to Suarez, then kept driving to to the net. Suarez took a couple of touches toward the 18-yard box, then sent a cross to the back post right back to Cavani, whose header was picture perfect. After Portugal tied the match on a corner kick, La Celeste broke out downfield off a free kick and once again put the ball on Cavani’s feet. He bent a shot around Portuguese keeper Rui Patricio to take the lead and, eventually, the win.
Quarterfinals: Uruguay vs. France, July 6, 10 a.m. EST, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Yellow card to Portugal’s Ronaldo
In the 94th minute.
Uruguay substitution: Sanchez for Nandez
In the 81st minute.
Portugal substitution: Andre Silva for Guedes
In the 73rd minute.
Uruguay substitution: Stuani for Cavani
In the 73rd minute.
Game respects game
Cavani limped off the pitch in the 71st minute with an apparently injured ankle. Ronaldo ran over to help him off in a moment of good sportsmanship. Cavani has been dominant on the ball all game with both of La Celeste’s goals.
Portugal substitution: Quaresma for Adrien Silva
In the 65th minute.
Cavani again! The striker bent a shot around Portuguese keeper Rui Patricio in the 62nd minute. It’s Cavani’s second goal of the day and puts La Celeste back in front 2-1.
Portugal poured so many men forward to start the second half, it was going to strike eventually. In the 55th minute, it has. Off a short corner, Pepe rose above the Uruguayan defense in a pocket of space and deposited a header to tie the match.
Halftime: Uruguay 1, Portugal 0
Both sides had scoring chances, but after 45 minutes, only Uruguay was able to capitalize. La Celeste takes a 1-0 lead into halftime against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
Uruguay’s strike came early: a seventh-minute header from Edinson Cavani on a cross from Luis Suarez. Ronaldo had a chance to equalize late with a free kick just outside the 18-yard box, but his attempt was blocked by Uruguay’s wall.
The winner of this match advances to face France in the quarterfinals.
A chance for Suarez
When La Celeste can get the ball on the feet of Suarez and Cavani, it is consistently generating good scoring chances. This time, Suarez was fouled running just outside the 18-yard box, and his free kick nearly found the back of the net.
And what a fantastic goal it was. Edinson Cavani switched the ball across the field 40 yards to Luis Suarez in the seventh minute and then kept driving to to the net. Suarez took a couple of touches toward the 18-yard box, then sent a cross to the back post right back to Cavani, whose header was picture perfect.
The knockout stage is here, and with it arrives a meeting of two of the world’s most organized, creative and offensive-minded teams. Both Uruguay and Portugal are possession-oriented sides keen on being patient with the ball in the midfield while the talented strikers and wingers find space to attack.
Uruguay dominated possession against Egypt in a 1-0 win and even more so against Russia, a 3-0 victory. Saudi Arabia nearly provided the kryptonite for La Celeste’s tactics by playing keep-away along the back line, dropping 10 and sometimes 11 men on defense, and then counterattacking. But the Saudis couldn’t score; Uruguay, in fact, is the only team in the tournament yet to allow a goal.
Portugal likes to play a similar style, funneling balls forward to Cristiano Ronaldo, tied for second in this tournament with four goals. But it might also relish the opportunity to counterattack and let Ronaldo take on defenders at full speed in space. Set pieces, too, may prove crucial, between Ronaldo’s expertise bending around a wall and keeper and Edinson Cavani’s touch for Uruguay, picking out the open man in the box. Uruguay has already scored twice off corner kicks in this tournament, with a third goal coming off a free kick from the corner.
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Uruguay (Group A winner)
- Previous results: Defeated Egypt, 1-0. Defeated Saudi Arabia, 1-0. Defeated Russia, 3-0.
- Best World Cup finish: Champion, 1950, 1930.
- Notable: Striker Luis Suarez leads La Celeste with two goals through the group stage. Last time Uruguay made a World Cup run, he was sent off in the quarterfinals for a deliberate handball against Ghana in 2010. His transgression ultimately saved the game, though: Uruguay won on penalty kicks.
- FIFA world ranking: 14. ELO world ranking: 8.
Portugal (Group B runner-up)
- Previous results: Drew with Spain, 3-3. Defeated Morocco, 1-0. Drew with Iran, 1-1.
- Best World Cup finish: Third place, 1966.
- Notable: Striker Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick against Spain to open the World Cup. It was the first of two hat tricks recorded in the tournament’s group stage, and the first time in World Cup history that a player recorded a hat trick in a draw.
- FIFA world ranking: 4. ELO world ranking: 5.
Players to watch
Both of these sides are led by star power, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be on display in Sochi. That means watching Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal and Luis Suarez for Uruguay. Ronaldo likely will be Portugal’s only scoring threat. The side struggled to find rhythm against Morocco and Iran, teams that put 11 men behind the ball and took away extra time and space. But there are always set pieces and weird bounces. Ronaldo will get his chances, and if Portugal has high hopes of winning, they rest on his feet. Suarez, on the other hand, plays in a more balanced offense and can look to Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain) and Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid) for scoring help. Also keep an eye on Carlos Sanchez, who has two assists.
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