Edinson Cavani completed his brace with an exquisite strike in the 62nd minute as Uruguay successfully held out against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the final half-hour to reach the World Cup quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory Saturday in Sochi.
Cavani, who opened the scoring on seven minutes, opened his body just above the penalty area on the left to load up his right foot, meeting a rolling pass by Rodrigo Bentancur and side-footing his inch-perfect curling shot from 20 yards past a diving Rui Patricio and into the right corner of the net to snap a 1-1 tie.
Portugal had two chances to force extra time in the dying seconds, with the allotted four minutes of extra time extending to six, but Ricardo Quaresma’s 10-yard shot stung the palms of Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera. While Portugal counterpart Rui Patricio met the ensuing corner as an extra attacker, it was cleared in a frantic scramble during which Portgual players screamed at referee Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos with claims of handball.
Pepe had canceled out Cavani’s goal with a 55th-minute header off a short corner, but his inability to corral Muslera’s goal kick led to Cavani’s second six minutes later.
It was the third goal in two matches for Cavani, who struggled to get going at this World Cup until his last-minute goal in Uruguay’s 3-0 win over Russia to conclude group play. La Celeste are through to the quarterfinals for the second time in their last three World Cup appearances, having finished fourth in South Africa in 2010.
While the 33-year-old Ronaldo had his best World Cup in terms of goals with four in his fourth appearance on football’s biggest stage, he failed to make a strong impact on this match as Uruguay’s disciplined back line, led by Atletico Madrid central defenders Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, did well to limit his scoring chances.
It was the third time in his four World Cup appearances Ronaldo failed to advance beyond the round of 16, following Argentina’s Lionel Messi out the door in Russia hours apart as his fourth-place finish in 2006 remains his high-water mark.
Ronaldo’s lone shot on goal came in the first chance of the match, a 20-yard shot easily caught by Muslera in the sixth minute. Cavani was the architect of his first goal, reversing play from the right sideline with a cross-pitch pass to Luis Suarez. His strike partner cut inside and curled a right-footed cross that Cavani met from five yards, beating Portugal defender Raphael Guerreiro to the far post and heading home for his 44th international goal.
A Selecao responded well in search of an equalizer, with Ronaldo having a shot blocked by Lucas Torreira and Goncalo Guedes suffering a similar fate that weakly found its way to Muslera. Gimenez then did well to clear a cross from Guedes as he tried to pick out an open Ronaldo in the penalty area for a header.
Suarez earned himself a free kick in the 21st minute after being fouled by Pepe 25 yards from goal. The Barcelona striker went low underneath the wall, and while seeing it late, Patricio did well to dive to his left knock it away.
Just after the half-hour, it was Ronaldo’s turn to line up a free kick, but his effort from 30 yards was absorbed by the Uruguay wall. In the 35th minute, Nahitan Nandez picked out Cavani with a cross on the left, but his chest trap was too strong and it went over the end line.
Palazuelos did little in the way of halting what was at times cynical play except for what he thought were blatant fouls. While Suarez is no stranger to play-acting, he was plowed from behind by Guerreiro late in the first half, but Palazuelos wasn’t moved as Portugal played forward and left Suarez behind writhing on the pitch.
Portgual came out strong after the restart and put La Celeste on the back foot, earning a succession of corners. The third one proved the charm for A Selecao as Pepe, who started in a deep position, ghosted behind Jimenez and hit a majestic 10-yard header on Guerriero’s cross from the left into the space Muslera had vacated as he tried to move across the goal line.
Yet as Pepe taketh, he gaveth away in short order. Muslera launched a goal kick into Portugal’s half, and while Suarez didn’t go up with Pepe to challenge for the ball, he distracted the Portgual defender just enough it continued to Bentancur as the situation quickly escalated into a 3-on-2 for Uruguay.
Bentancur’s weighted pass gave Cavani all the time in the world to pick out the right corner he immediately decided upon aiming for, and the striker made no mistake for his fifth career World Cup goal.
Muslera, though, nearly gifted Portugal an equalizer in the 70th minute when he failed to cleanly catch a cross, fumbling it forwards. Guerreiro got a touch to it while colliding with Muslera, and the ball went to Bernardo Silva, but his contested right-footed effort from 15 yards blazed over the bar.
Shortly after that, Cavani came up limping after a knock that forced his exit without a true chance at a third goal. Cristhain Stuani entered for the final quarter-hour, while Portugal introduced forward Andre Silva in their push for the tying goal.
Ricardo Quaresma, who also entered in the second half, sent a cross Ronaldo narrowly missed in the 83rd minute as Portugal continued to ratchet up the pressure and tick its corner kick higher. A Selecao brought on Manuel Fernandes five minutes from time, and he quickly challenged Muslera with a 25-yard shot the Uruguay keeper handled easily.
Ronaldo had one more chance, but it was speculative at best as he failed to get over a 30-yard effort and sent it well wide of the right post. Uruguay nearly saw the game off early in stoppage time as Suarez worked himself free on the right side and picked out Cristian Rodriguez with a cross, but he miscued his shot wide of the target.