Sochi, July 1 (IANS) Striker Edinson Cavani fired a brace as two-time champions Uruguay defeated reigning European champions Portugal 2-1 here on Saturday to set-up a FIFA World Cup quarter-final against France.
Cavani scored in the seventh and 62nd minutes while Portugal got their goal from Pepe in the 55th minute at the Fisht Stadium as Uruguay entered the last eight stage of the World Cup only for the second time in 48 years.
The loss for Portugal against Uruguay ended the dream of legendary Cristiano Ronaldo, who alongside Argentina’s Lionel Messi, may have to end a stellar international career without the biggest trophy in football. Messi’s Argentina lost to France in the other game of the day.
Ronaldoa’s Portugal met Uruguay for the first time in a World Cup and had to suffer the defeat, thanks to the brilliance of Cavani.
He scored a minute after Ronaldo tested Fernando Muslera with a 20-yard long-ranger in the sixth minute. Cavani, out deep on the right side, launched a crossfield pass for Luis Suarez on the left before receving back the high cross at the right post with a powerful header which beat goalminder Rui Patricio.
Suarez could have put Uruguay 2-0 ahead in the 22nd minute as a diving Patricio parried clear a low free-kick which went under the Portuguese jumping wall towards the bottom right.
Uruguay, who included a fit-again Jose Giminez to partner captain Diego Godin dealt diligently with the set-pices employed by Ronaldo. Godin marked Ronaldo in keeping away the latter’s aerial threat.
Uruguay’s quartet of young midfielders in Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Lucas Torreira and Nahitan Nandez did well to cut down the spaces to reduce the supplies to Ronaldo as Portugal trailed by a goal at the half-time.
Uruguay had not conceded a goal in the tournament until a header from veteran central defender Pepe breached the defence of the South Americans. Raphael Gurrero whipped in a cross from a short corner and as the ball crossed Ronaldo’s head, Pepe jumped high to meet the cross and fetch the equaliser for his side 10 minutes into the second half.
Uruguay took seven minutes to regain the lead as Cavani completed his brace. Muslera’s long goal-kick was brought down by Bentancur 30 yards away, before the latter rolled a perfect pass towards the left where Cavani was unmarked. Cavani employed a side-footed curling effort to send the ball into the right corner of the net.
Bernado Silva missed a golden chance to pull Portugal level as he shot over the cross-bar after Gurrero cross which went at the goal was poorly dealt by Muslera. The keeper fumbled twice before the ball landed at Silva in the 69th minute.
Uruguay’s hero of the evening, Cavani had to be substituted due to what looked like to be a muscle pull. Head coach brought in experienced midfielder Carlos Sanchez as they looked to defend the slender lead. Bentancur made way for veteran midfielder Cristian Rodriguez to see his side home towards the end.
With the Uruguayan midfield hardly allowing areas in front of the box, Portugal resorted to crosses and crossfield balls. Uruguay’s full-backs, Diego Laxalt at the left and Martin Caceres at the right, were alert in dealing with Guerreiro and Jao Mario on the left and Bernado and substitute Ricardo Quaresma on th right.
Portugal’s flank players created some set-piece sutuations but they couldn’t yield the desired equaliser as Uruguay saw off the last anxious moments by doing putting in a heavy defending shift.