Portugal became the third nation after
France and Brazil to secure their passage to the round of 16 following their
comfortable 2-0 win over Uruguay at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar. Bruno Fernandes
continued his stellar form for his nation on Monday night, scoring a
second-half brace to give Portugal the three points against the team that
knocked them out of the previous World Cup in Russia.
The European side started the game on the
front foot, with Cristiano Ronaldo using his shoulder to set up William
Carvalho for a shot from the edge of the box, whose volley went flying over the
bar. Bruno Fernandes and Jose Gimenez had sighters on goal in the opening
exchanges, but neither side fashioned any substantial opportunity in the first
half hour. The best chance of the half fell to Tottenham midfielder Rodrigo
Bentancur in the 32nd minute, who mazed his way past multiple
Portugal defenders but was denied by goalkeeper Diogo Costa.
Portugal found more joy in attack after the
break and finally opened the scoring in the 54th minute through Bruno
Fernandes. The Manchester United man curled in a cross that looked to have
crept in off the head of Cristiano Ronaldo. However, further replays showed
that the 37-year-old failed to get any touch on the ball, with the goal
credited to his former club-mate.
Uruguay sprung forward after going 1-0 down
and were inches away from levelling the scores as Maxi Gomez’s strike rattled
the post in the 75th minute. Luis Suarez and Giorgian de Arrascaeta also went
close in the final 15 minutes, but the game finally fell away from their grasp
after the VAR awarded a penalty to Portugal in the dying moments of regular
time for a handball by Jose Maria Gimenez.
With Ronaldo off the pitch, Fernandes
stepped up to convert the penalty to put the game to bed. The midfielder also
had a chance to bag the first hat trick of the World Cup in added time, the
28-year-old’s strike from the edge of the area rattling the post.
This result confirms Portugal’s berth in
the last 16 and Cristiano Ronaldo’s side will need just a single point against
South Korea on Friday to secure their spot as group winners. Uruguay,
meanwhile, are lingering at the bottom of the table and will need to beat Ghana
in their last match and hope for a Portugal victory over South Korea to
progress to the next stage of the tournament.