LUSAIL, Qatar — Bruno Fernandes overshadowed Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring both goals for Portugal on Monday as a 2-0 win against Uruguay sealed a place in the 2022 World Cup’s knockout round for the 2016 European champions.
In a hard-fought game at Lusail Stadium, Fernandes made the key difference for Portugal as Uruguay’s loss left them at the bottom of Group H and needing to win against Ghana in their final game to have any hope of qualifying for the next stage.
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1. Portugal prove they are a top team in Qatar
Portugal joined France and Brazil by securing their place in the round of 16, but while those two football heavyweights are among the favourites to win the World Cup, nobody should underestimate this Portugal team.
They were able to overcome a stubborn Uruguay, who offered little going forward, by winning without relying on the goals of Ronaldo. And but for a last-minute strike that hit the post, Manchester United’s Fernandes would have become the first player to score a hat trick in Qatar.
Fernandes, a midfielder, is just one of those Portugal players who are stars in their own right but too often overshadowed by Ronaldo. Portugal also have Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao, Joao Felix and top-class defenders such as Ruben Dias and the veteran Pepe.
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Portugal are always a contender at major tournaments and a threat to more fancied nations, but their only international success to date was at Euro 2016.
Yet as the World Cup moves into the knockout stage, Portugal are a team to be avoided by the top sides because they are capable of beating anyone and could go all the way this time around.
2. Ronaldo’s desire for goals turns sneaky
Ronaldo hasn’t scored over 800 career goals without an intense desire to stick the ball into the net, but he went as far as trying to sneakily claim one he didn’t score against Uruguay.
The 37-year-old, now without a club following his acrimonious exit from Manchester United last week, became the first player to score in five World Cup tournaments when he netted a penalty in the 3-2 win against Ghana in Portugal’s opening game in Qatar.
But he also tried to deny Fernandes the opening goal in this game against Uruguay by reacting to the 54th-minute strike by celebrating as though he had headed in the midfielder’s cross.
At first glance, there seemed to be nothing but the faintest contact from Ronaldo’s head, but his reaction suggested no doubt that he had delivered the crucial touch. Yet a series of replays showed that Ronaldo hadn’t touched the ball or diverted it into the net at all.
When the big screens in the Lusail Stadium announced moments later that Fernandes had been awarded the goal, Ronaldo’s reaction was caught on camera: He was looking at the screen and gave what appeared to be a nervous laugh of trying to mask his disappointment, or simply his disbelief that somebody had the audacity to take the goal off him.
It was a similar look from Ronaldo when he was substituted by manager Fernando Santos in the closing stages.
3. Cynical Uruguay turns back clock with rough approach
Uruguay is a nation that has been, and continues to be, blessed with world-class football talent, which has always been disproportionately high for its population of just 3.5 million people.
But when their great attacking players don’t dominate the game, Uruguay can too often rely on a more physical approach to get a result, especially against teams as talented as Portugal.
This was one of those occasions when manager Diego Alonso’s players displayed Uruguay’s cynical side, attempting to kill the game at every opportunity with late challenges, shirt tugs and a general sense of over-physicality. On Fernandes’ penalty, Portugal players guarded the spot from Uruguay players seeking to scuff it up.
Uruguay has always produced tough, committed players and their blend of tenacity and ability is why so many, such as Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and Edinson Cavani, have succeeded at Europe’s major clubs over the years.
But aside from a late flurry of attacks when chasing the game, Uruguay played this one as if content with a draw and they tried to get the point by crossing the line on several occasions. Both Rodrigo Bentancur and Mathias Olivera were issued yellow cards and were then lucky not to be sent off for further fouls.
It is a shame to see a team of such talent perform in such a negative manner, especially when they have the players to beat any side on their day.
Portugal: Diogo Costa 6; Joao Cancelo 7, Ruben Dias 6, Pepe 7, Nuno Mendes 5; Bernardo Silva 6, Ruben Neves 6, William Carvalho 6; Bruno Fernandes 7, Cristiano Ronaldo 5, Joao Felix 7.
Subs: Raphael Guerreiro 6, Rafael Leao 6, Goncalo Ramos 6, Joao Palhinha 6, Matheus Nunes 6.
Uruguay: Sergio Rochet 7; Sebastian Coates 6, Diego Godin 7, Jose Maria Gimenez 6; Fede Valverde 6, Matias Vecino 6, Rodrigo Bentancur 5; Guillermo Varela 6, Mathias Oliveira 5; Darwin Nunez 5, Edinson Cavani 5.
Subs: Facundo Pellistri 6, Giorgian de Arrascaeta 6, Maxi Gomez 6, Luis Suarez 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Bruno Fernandes, Portugal
The Manchester United midfielder stood out simply by scoring the goal that decided this dismal game.
WORST: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
The Portugal captain was anonymous and only caught the attention when he tried to claim a goal that wasn’t his.
Highlights and notable moments
The game-defining goal came in the 54th minute. Bruno Fernandes launched a cross into the box, and Cristiano Ronaldo rose up for a free header as the ball bounced into the back of the net.
Ronaldo celebrated like it was his goal and he was initially credited with scoring, but upon closer inspection it appears he missed the ball, and the goal was credited to Fernandes. The goal was Fernandes’ first in a World Cup.
Does Ronaldo get a touch on this goal? pic.twitter.com/SdW0v6NjCZ
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 28, 2022
Fernandes wasn’t done, though.
A somewhat dubious penalty was awarded to Portugal when Fernandes nutmegged the ball through Jose Maria Gimenez’s legs and, Gimenez falling to the ground, put his arm out to brace his fall and the ball brushed past his hand. The referee determined it was a handball after a video review.
A penalty is awarded to Portugal for this handball pic.twitter.com/FyG8XT9Fjg
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 28, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Bruno Fernandes on credit for the goal changing: “We are happy with the victory regardless of who scored. The most important thing is that we achieved our aim, which is to be in the next round. I celebrated [the opener against Uruguay] as if it had been Cristiano’s goal. It seemed to me that he had touched the ball. My aim was to cross the ball for him.”
Portugal coach Fernando Santos on who scored Fernandes’ first goal: “I think it was a great match, our team played very well and the rest for me does not matter.”
Santos on the result: “It was a deserved victory. The team did what it said it would. We’re through to the next round. Now we have to continue working to improve what we have to improve on. I told my players at halftime that we had to play our game, playing, showing up with confidence. This is our game and we needed to pick it up. There was some fatigue, others could have entered, but there are 26 of them and they can all play. The important thing is that we won and we won well.”
Santos on whether he will rest players for the Friday game against South Korea: “The game is over, we’re qualified. Tomorrow I’ll calmly think about these things.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Bruno Fernandes scored his first World Cup goal in four career appearances in the tournament.
Fernandes has been involved in four out of the five goals scored by Portugal this World Cup (two goals, two assists).
Portugal: Group H continues Friday when Portugal faces South Korea at 10 a.m. ET. With their win over Uruguay, however, Portugal have qualified for the knockout round.
Uruguay: Likewise, Uruguay will face Ghana on Friday at 10 a.m. ET to close out the group stage. But with their loss to Portugal, they must win against Ghana and see if the other Group H game at the same time helps their cause.
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