World Cup 2018: Uruguay vs Portugal - 3 battles that decided the game
Edinson Cavani's brace and Lucas Torreira's outstanding performance in midfield inspired Uruguay to victory over Portugal in Sochi to set up a World Cup quarter-final clash against France.
With the game kicking off just hours after Argentina and Lionel Messi were sent packing by Didier Deschamps' men, the spotlight was then on modern football's other superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal side that looked to start afresh after an unconvincing performance in the group stage.
However, it was the menacing duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani that drew first blood, the latter superbly heading home from Suarez's fierce cross after Cavani himself set his partner on his way with a diagonally long pass.
Portugal equalised soon after the restart, Pepe taking advantage of a rare lapse in the Uruguayan defence to evade his marker and glance a header from fullback Raphael Guerrero's cross past Fernando Muslera.
It needed just 7 minutes for Uruguay to restore their lead and there was no one better than Cavani to provide the goods, expertly curling in from the edge of the 18-yard area after being set up by Juventus' Rodrigo Bentancur.
Portugal strived hard, but in a defence led by Diego Godin, clear-cut chances were always going to be hard to come by and that turned out to be the case, with the referee blowing the full-time whistle to Uruguayan tears of joy.
We witnessed many minor battles and we dissect three such that were pivotal to the South Americans winning the war in Sochi:-
#3 Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez trump the Portugese defence
The anticipation of watching the dangerous duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez complement one another was well worth the wait, as the PSG and Barcelona forwards wasted no time in unlocking the Portuguese defence and giving the Uruguayans the lead. While Suarez kept testing the centre-halves by driving into any pocket of space available, Cavani played the ideal finisher’s role by his movement around the box and posing as a crossing and passing option.
Both attributes were utilized to devastating effect less than five minutes into the game. Suarez received an excellent flank-switching lofted pass from his partner. The 31-year old did brilliantly to create space on the left flank before delivering an inch-perfect cross for an unmarked, free-sprinting Cavani to head past a hapless Rui Patricio. The fatal mistake of not being aware of Cavani’s run towards goal was made by young left-back Raphael Guerrero, whose eyes were focused on Suarez, rather than the PSG man who came in from behind.
The game progressed with the duo winning headers from goal-kicks – Cavani using his height and Suarez using his physicality- and constantly exploiting spaces unforgivably left in between centre-halves Pepe and Jose Fonte, who had to resort to desperate tackles to snuff out the attack.
Cavani eventually stole the show, curling a first-time shot from Rodrigo Bentancur's pass from the edge of the box into the far corner, out of reach of a diving Patricio.
A partnership that was long overdue to blossom at the World Cup – majorly due to Suarez’s suspensions – finally seems to be thriving at their peaks and critically, in a knockout fixture against the European Champions.