Edinson Cavani scored two superb goals as Uruguay beat Portugal to set up a World Cup quarter-final meeting with France.
Defeat for the European champions finished Cristiano Ronaldo’s hopes of success in Russia just hours after Lionel Messi and Argentina were knocked out, beaten 4-3 by Les Bleus.
This World Cup has not been short of stunning goals and Cavani added another to the collection when he opened the scoring early on, playing a superb one-two with Luis Suarez before thumping home a header from his strike partner’s cross.
Uruguay had not conceded a goal at this World Cup before Pepe rose unmarked to nod in an equaliser from close range, prompting a brief spell of dominance for Portugal.
But Cavani secured Uruguay’s place in the last eight – and a trip to Nizhny Novgorod to face France on Friday – when he steered a brilliant shot beyond goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
The win may have come at a price, though, as Cavani limped off late on.
Uruguay going from strength to strength
Uruguay made a slow start to this World Cup by scraping past Egypt 1-0 but have got stronger with every game – and in Suarez and Cavani, they possess one of the most potent strike partnerships in Russia.
Exquisite technique, timing and teamwork were all present as the two combined to score a goal inside the first 10 minutes that few sides at the tournament would have been able to prevent.
Cavani – hugging the touchline on the right wing – hit a brilliant crossfield pass to Suarez wide left. The Barcelona forward held the ball for a moment as Cavani powered into the area before whipping in a cross for his strike partner to head home. Of Cavani’s 45 international goals, Suarez has now assisted 12 of them.
It is, however, a partnership that could be disrupted. After scoring his side’s second with a clinical finish on the counter, the Paris St-Germain striker left the field, appearing to clutch his hamstring.
A serious injury for Cavani would undoubtedly be a blow but this Uruguay team is arguably greater than the sum of its parts. Against Portugal, they looked well balanced and while they did concede, it was the first goal against them in 597 minutes of football, a run stretching back to August last year.
A 1930 repeat for Uruguay? The stats
- This is the first time Uruguay have won their opening four games tat a World Cup tournament since 1930, with the fourth game in that run being their 4-2 victory over Argentina in the final.
- Portugal have lost their past four World Cup knockout matches, since a goalless draw with England (and a penalty shootout win) in the 2006 quarter-final.
- Uruguay’s winning goal came from their only shot of any kind in the second half. They had just 30% possession after half-time.
- Edinson Cavani scored his 44th and 45th goals for Uruguay.
- Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani scored with both of his shots on target.
- Since 1966, only Grzegorz Lato and Andrzej Szarmach (five for Poland) and Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose (five for Germany) have combined for more World Cup goals than Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez (four).
- This was Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo’s 38th game in World Cups/European Championships – no player has played in more across the two competitions (he is level with Bastian Schweinsteiger).
- Ronaldo has played 514 minutes of football in the knockout stages of the World Cup, but has failed to score or provide an assist.
- He attempted six shots for Portugal in this match (one on target) – one more than the entire Uruguay team managed over the 90 minutes.
- At 35 years and 124 days, Pepe became Portugal’s oldest goalscorer in a major tournament match (World Cup and European Championships).
More to follow.