Uruguay 2-1 Portugal: Edinson Cavani Double Sends Uruguay to World Cup Quarterfinals

Edinson Cavani

Sochi, Russia (June 30, 2018) — Edinson Cavani and Luís Suarez are proving to be the most lethal strike force combo at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The tandem demonstrated their attacking quality on Saturday in a 2-1 victory over Portugal that vaulted Uruguay into the quarterfinals for the second time in eight years. Cavani netted a brace with Suarez playing a part in both goals.

Uruguay 2-1 Portugal: Edinson Cavani Nets a Brace as Uruguay Clinch World Cup Quarterfinal Berth

Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez went with his tried and tested 4-4-2 that included the partnership of Cavani and Suarez up top. Center back Jose Gimenez, whose header off a corner sealed victory over Egypt in their opening match, returned to the lineup after missing the group finale with a thigh injury.

On the other side, Portugal also came out in a 4-4-2 shape. Manager Fernando Santos made three changes from the squad that drew 1-1 with Iran in their final Group B game. It included Gonçalo Guedes replacing Andre Silva as Cristiano Ronaldo’s partner on the front line. And Santos appeared more comfortable with added youth in the starting XI in featuring Bernardo Silva and Ricardo Pereira in place of Ricardo Quaresma and Cédric respectively.

It didn’t take long for La Celeste to gain the upper hand. In the seventh minute, their two attacking talismans connected on a supremely majestic goal. It began with an inch perfect 40-yard long ball from Cavani that found Suarez on the left-hand side of the field. The Barcelona striker collected the ball, dribbled to his right, then whipped in a cross that found an onrushing Cavani at the back post. His header past Rui Patricio made it 1-0.

That early strike forced Portugal to chase the game and play more proactively than normal. Coming into the game, A Selecão averaged 458.7 passes per game which were 10th among the teams who made the knockout round. That indicates a team not used to owning much of the ball. But over the first 45 minutes, they owned a 64-36 edge in possession.

To say it lacked purpose would be an accurate assessment. Time after time Portugal ventured into the final third in the first half only for their quality around Uruguay’s goal to lack the killer instinct necessary for a breakthrough. A look at the heatmap of the opening stanza shows that the Portuguese with a multitude of touches against an Uruguay team playing in a fairly low block trying to defend their narrow lead. Portugal is the team on the right.

Uruguay’s defensive prowess was abundantly evident heading into this game. That’s readily apparent considering they hadn’t conceded a single goal in 2018, including friendlies and their three group games. It would take a quality effort from Portugal to bring that streak to an end.

Nine minutes into the second half, that’s exactly what Portugal conjured up. After Raphael Guerreiro collected a short corner, he fired it into the box hoping one of his teammates redirected it at goal. That teammate was an unlikely figure in Pepe. The 35-year-old center back headed it past Fernando Muslera for his first ever World Cup goal in his third appearance at the tournament.

That goal ended an impressive run of scoreless football for Uruguay. The last time they conceded was in a 2-1 loss to Austria on November 14, 2017. Overall, their run of not allowing an opponent to score between now and then totaled 598 minutes.

But the game didn’t remain deadlocked for very long. A mere seven minutes after Pepe’s equalizer, Cavani put in another for La Celeste. The Paris Saint-Germain forward was the beneficiary of some direct play from Uruguay. Suarez settled a long ball, dribbled towards goal and passed it to his left. It found Cavani who one-timed it towards goal and curled it far post to allow the Uruguayans to retake the lead.

But elation turned into concern for Uruguay fans not soon thereafter. In the 74th minute, a visibly limping Cavani came out of the game, with Tabarez replacing him with Cristhian Stuani. It gave us one of the tournament’s more inspiring displays of sportsmanship when Ronaldo came over to Cavani to help him off the field.

In Portugal’s case, there simply wasn’t enough clinical finishing necessary to get a result. Though they outshot Uruguay 20-5, an overwhelming number of those efforts weren’t capable of beating Muslera. As a result, their tournament is over. Combined with Argentina’s defeat to France earlier in the day, both Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, considered among the greatest ever to play the game, may both end their international careers without a World Cup in their trophy case.

Obviously, Cavani’s status for the quarterfinal matchup with France is among Uruguay’s biggest concerns. His two-goal effort against Portugal means he now accounts for half of his team’s output at this year’s tournament. If he can’t go, it puts added pressure on Suarez and whoever steps in for him to keep this team alive.

That game takes place on Friday, July 6 in Nizhny Novgorod with kickoff set for 10 a.m. ET.

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