World Cup Group H: Ronaldo’s whiff vital, Fernandes stars as Portugal gets past Uruguay 2-0

Bruno Fernandes Portugal Uruguay World Cup
Bruno Fernandes celebrates his second goal against Uruguay. (Photo: FIFA World Cup)

Bruno Fernandes accounted for both of Portugal’s goals, clinching a spot in the Round of 16 with a 2-0 victory over Uruguay on Monday night in Group H action at the World Cup. 

The Manchester United midfielder’s tallies came in the second half to continue a brilliant start to his tournament in Qatar. Fernandes recorded two assists in the opener against Ghana before recording a brace against the two-time World Cup winners.

It’s not often that a Portuguese player outshines Cristiano Ronaldo, who was still very much at the center of things throughout his 81 minutes on the pitch. The superstar’s presence was vital in Fernandes’ first goal — a cross that Ronaldo missed, but threw off  Uruguayan keeper Sergio Rochet to the point where the ball rolled into the net untouched.

Ronaldo alone created three chances in the opening 45 minutes, which were the most in a World Cup match since 2010 against North Korea. He even had a free kick just outside the box on the left side, but his chance nicked off the top of the Uruguayan wall and out of harm’s way. 

It was Uruguay against the run of play, though, that had the best chance to get in front — and it was Rodrigo Bentancur that nearly came up with the goal of the tournament. 

Matias Vecino played a ball into the bounding midfielder on the Uruguayan side of midfield and went directly down the center of the field and through the Portugal defense — including taking three defenders on at once at the top of the box. He got through and should have finished for a showstopper, but his low shot was saved by the underside of Portuguese keeper Diogo Costa.

Joao Felix should have found a way to put Portugal in front in the 52nd minute when he led a break down the left with Fernandes. Rather than passing it off for a tap-in by Fernandes, Felix went for glory but found the outside of the side netting, much to the chagrin of a furious Fernandes. 

It didn’t matter much because two minutes later, Portugal was in front. A cross over the top by Fernandes looked destined to find a leaping Ronaldo’s head right in front of goal, but it was just inches too high. Rochet was frozen, however, expecting a redirection from the header as Fernandes’ cross bounced into the back of the net. 

The goal throttled the game to life as the physical intensity picked up and the chances began to increase. 

Uruguay began finding success down the right flanks but lacked that last, vital ball while Portugal’s best chances at doubling its advantage came on the counter. 

In the 75th minute, Uruguay’s Maximilliano Gomez curled a one-time, right-footed shot from just outside the box that had Costa beat. While he drifted back to begin his celebration, joy turned to agony in milliseconds as the ball careened off the right post and out.

An Uruguayan free kick in the 78th minute singed low into the box and was lost amidst a forest of legs in front of Portugal’s goal. It fell to the legendary striker, Luis Suarez from a tough angle — you’d still normally bet on him to finish it — but his shot found the outside of the side netting. 

A minute later, Federico Valverde carved the Portuguese defense with a brilliant run that played him into the box with just Costa to get through. He opted for the chip but got it all wrong as it floated harmlessly to the grateful keeper. 

VAR sealed Uruguay’s fate when a review confirmed that Jose Gimenez handled a Fernandes ball that rolled under the sliding defender, rewarding Portugal with a penalty in the 90th minute. Up stepped Fernandes, who sent Rochet the wrong way and put the match away. 

He came within inches of a hat trick in the 99th minute, but his low shot from outside the box bounced off the left post and out.

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