Dark horses Uruguay limped to a halt as Bruno Fernandes put Portugal through to the last eight

Uruguay have plenty of merchants of chaos, but were painfully passive in a defeat to Portugal that left them bottom of the pile…

Goodbye, four game match days. You were a blast.

For a long time, though, the wall-to-wall eighth day of the World Cup looked headed for a tough finish, with Portugal and Uruguay seemingly in little need of victory and neither team looking to chase it. Then, when the deadlock was broken, with Cristiano Ronaldo appearing to claim that Bruno Fernandes’ cross had dented his ego, Uruguay offered awfully little to avoid. a defeat that leaves their last 16 hopes hanging by a thread.

It really takes a lot of effort to make a team with Darwin Nunez and Edinson Cavani up front so boring. Indeed, it was only when the attacking pair were replaced that Uruguay gave the illusion of intent.

Before that, Diego Alonso and his men looked only too happy to get on with what they started at the Lusail Stadium. Keep a clean sheet, get a point and move on to the last match day. Even if Alonso’s cunning plan had come off, it would still have left them needing to beat Ghana on Friday afternoon. The reward for a draw was hard to distinguish from the consequences of defeat. In this context, Uruguay’s lack of ambition is even more unfathomable.

Alonso switched to a back three with an average age of 32, so it was inevitable that Uruguay would sit deep and look to break on the counter-attack. And once Portugal’s initial flurry blew, it looked like things were going well for the South Americans. Indeed, if Rodrigo Bentancur had gone under, over or around Diogo Costa as he cut through Portugal’s defence, instead of straight at the keeper, then we would have been reflecting at half-time on a perfectly executed game plan, more rather. than to regret 45 of the most boring minutes of the tournament.

Uruguay started the second half even more passively, so they hardly complained when Portugal went ahead. IT HAD TO BE HIM! Oh, it wasn’t.

The first giveaway that Ronaldo didn’t touch Fernandes’ cross was in the free agent’s celebration. It was reckless, obviously, but for Ronaldo, not unpleasant enough. Then we saw the replays and the daylight between Ronaldo’s stump and the ball.

Portugal vs Uruguay

Even FIFA, the kings of picking what they see and hear, recognized the obvious bleeding, so Fernandes had his first goal in the World Cup final. Which the Manchester United tight end deserved for another telling contribution to Portugal’s attack.

Fernando Santos has received a lot of criticism, mostly justified, for his style of play with this Portugal team, but the manager deserves credit for finding a way to get the best out of both Fernandes and from Bernardo Silva. City’s schemer played a central role, freer to roam and dictate the tempo of Portugal’s possession, while ably supporting the spinning midfielders – William Carvalho and Ruben Neves on this occasion. Fernandes may feel that should be his job and is rarely as effective when outflanked with United, but he does a very good handful of things from inside channels. Two assists and now two goals. Indeed, he could have had a hat-trick, seeing an effort saved by the Uruguay keeper and another rebound off the foot of the post after sending a farcical late penalty.

Uruguay’s protests were justified but largely irrelevant. The defeat was as much deserved as the solitary point they took from their frenetic but weak opener against South Korea.

Uruguay were many people’s dark horses going into the tournament, but those who tipped them just a week ago are struggling to remember why after two toothless performances left them bottom in the group. They simply cannot be that soft on Friday against a Ghana side with revenge for 2010 on their minds.

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