Portugal advances to the knockout thanks Bruno Fernandes
After beating Uruguay 2-0 in the Lusail Iconic Stadium, Portugal is already safely in the round of 16.
The first half was tense but not particularly chance-filled, with Uruguay’s best chance coming when Rodrigo Bentancur evaded the Portugal defence but was denied by Diogo Costa’s quick reactions.
Portugal stepped up their game in the second half, and their superior possession was rewarded with a goal in the 54th minute when a dangerous Fernandes cross made its way into the far corner, with Cristiano Ronaldo claiming to have had a touch on the ball.
Late in the game, referee Alireza Faghani consulted with VAR and penalised Jose Maria Gimenez for a handball, giving the Selecao a disputed penalty that sealed all three points.
The pressure was on Fernandes, but he rose to the occasion and made no blunders in beating Sergio Rochet to the ball and putting Portugal into the round of 16 early.
A thrilling 45 minutes of football was promised in the first five minutes, as both teams came close to scoring.
Mathias Oliviera had a stab at the goal, but his shot was high and wide, while on the other end of the field, William Carvalho’s wildly acrobatic right-footed volley went sailing over the crossbar.
After a few early opportunities, a cautious first half ensued in which Portugal maintained possession but saw little goalmouth action, with Uruguay’s Bentancur missing the greatest chance of the first 45 minutes.
From the halfway line, the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder charged with purpose, using deft footwork to avoid the tackles of the Portuguese defence and set up a one-on-one with the onrushing Costa, but he was unable to score before halftime.
In the 50th minute of the second half, Portugal showed tremendous attacking energy, with Joao Felix coming near with a left-footed drive that went just wide of the post.
Right after Felix missed the target, Portugal went up 1-0 when it appeared that Ronaldo had scored with the deftest of headers off of a dangerous cross by Fernandes. However, closer inspection revealed that the cross had found the far corner all on its own.
Manager Diego Alonso shook up his starting lineup in search of an equaliser after Uruguay’s streak of five straight clean sheets in the World Cup’s group stage was snapped.
Maxi Gomez’s beautiful curling strike from the edge of the box slammed against the post, and Luis Suarez’s tamely directed effort just wide when the ball broke to him in the area from a free kick both posed an immediate threat to the game.
The ball was passed around until Giorgian de Arrascaeta had a chance to equalise for Portugal in the 79th minute, but the towering Portuguese goalkeeper produced a fantastic save to maintain his team ahead.
After Gimenez accidentally handled the ball as he went backwards, the referee consulted with the technology for a moment and ruled that Gimenez’s infraction warranted a penalty kick, effectively ending Uruguay’s hopes of salvaging a point from the match.
Portugal has already clinched a spot in the round of 16, so they can focus on their final group stage match against South Korea on Friday. Uruguay, meanwhile, must win their match against Ghana in order to have any chance of advancing.