In the final game of matchday 2 in the World Cup group stage, Portugal overcame a fiery Uruguay side to book a spot in the Round of 16.
Whose goal is it anyway?
Bruno Fernandes was the standout performer, and almost scored a hat-trick to top off an excellent performance. In the 54th minute, Fernandes curled a ball into the goalmouth, presumably intended for Cristiano Ronaldo who rose to meet it on its way to the goal.
However, Ronaldo never made contact with the ball. That did not stop him celebrating and taking on-field credit for the goal. Officials later confirmed the goal was Bruno’s. This goal may be a living metaphor for the off-field drama. A talented Portuguese side is sometimes overlooked for a certain forward who craves the glory and limelight.
Ronaldo’s new role
A case could be made that had Ronaldo not been there Uruguayan goalkeeper Sergio Rochet would have collected the cross-come-shot. Could this be the role Fernando Santos has intended for Ronaldo all along?
Ronaldo’s presence on the field attracts defensive attention, which creates space for the likes of Bernardo Silva, João Félix, and Bruno Fernandes. Portugal dominated possession and created more chances. There was great forward intention as William Carvalho and João Félix made purposeful drives through the middle.
Scoreline hiding the cracks
Notwithstanding the final score it was not all rosy for Portugal. The scoreline did not tell the whole story. On the way to the 2-0 victory, Uruguay came close many times.
In the first half, Tottenham forward Rodrigo Bentancur ran past three Portuguese defenders before trying to slot the goal through Diogo Costa’s legs. Fortunately, Costa stayed close to the ground while making the save and Bentancur was denied.
In the 42nd minute, PSG left-back Nuno Mendes was subbed off with an injury. Raphaël Guerreiro came on as a replacement. In the second half, Guerreiro was terrorized down the left side. Time after time the Uruguay attack was able to get past Guerreiro and get a cross or a cut back pass. The rest of the Portuguese defense was able to step up, but the weak spot was clear.
What comes next?
Portugal play their final group game against South Korea on Friday. With six points from their first two games the Portuguese are assured of their place in the Round of 16.
All eyes will be on what happens in Group G in order to see who their opponents will be. Portugal will need only a point to finish top of Group H. The winners of Group H play the runners up of Group G.
Though, mathematically, any of the teams in Group G could finish as runners up, it would take a combination of results for Brazil not to win the Group. This leaves the runners up spot open for one of Switzerland, Cameroon, or Serbia.
Photo credit: IMAGO / AFLOSPORT
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