SOCHI - Cristiano Ronaldo walked Edison Cavani out of this game, helping the Uruguayan to the touchline, but not before the Uruguayan had put Portugal out of the World Cup.

Cavani departed with 20 minutes remaining, slowly making his way around the edge of the pitch, a lost look on his face. His two goals, both of them superb, took Uruguay through to the quarter-finals but it appears unlikely he will be with them when they face France in Nizhy Novgorod on Friday. Twenty minutes later, it was Ronaldo wearing that look: his World Cup is over, too.

As the final seconds ticket away, Portugal threw everything they could at this, the goalkeeper Rui Patricio sent forward and almost heading goalwards, the Portugese bench leaping with every tackle and tumbled, calling for the VAR to rescue them. In the end, it could not. Cavani had gone, sadly, but his two goals brought delight to a resilient Uruguay. Not long before he departed he had put them 2-1 up; not long into the first half he had put them 1-0 up. In between time, Pepe had equalised. But it was Cavani’s goals that were decisive – and something special.

The goal was astonishing, genuinely breathtaking: brutal in its beauty, beautiful in its brutality – a 100-yard one-two taking them from halfway line to byline, the ball twice smashed high, hard and with incredible precision diagonally from one side of the pitch to the other and back again before it flew into the net.

It had started with Rodrigo Betancur, neatly turning in the middle of midfield, the play spread to the right wing for Cavani. His strike partner Luis Suárez was almost the entire width of the pitch away, but while they can be distanced, they came together once again. Born a month apart in Salto, population 104,000, Suárez left for Montevideo at seven and they didn’t know each other. At 19, though, they met in the U20 national team and have played together almost ever since, 207 Uruguay caps between them. Here, they found each other too.

Cavani drove a long diagonal across towards the left for Suárez that could be heard from the stands. Suárez controlled, ran at Ricardo, cut inside and, from beyond the top corner of the box, bent a vicious, superb ball in a fast, long arc to the far post where Cavani was running in. The replay suggested it might have hit Cavani on the shoulder or perhaps even the face, but the result was perfect, the ball rocketing in at the near post. Uruguay had a lead to defend and while 87 minutes remained defending is something they do rather well, the first team in five World Cups to progress from the group without conceding.

It had started well for Uruguay, despite the fact the first two attempts on goal had been Portugal’s, Bernardo Silva heading over and Ronaldo shooting sharply. It had also started in a way that might have been predicted, Cavani unlucky to be penalised as he turned Pepe on the halfway line and then Godin pushing over the Portugal defender while they waited for a corner. The ball not yet in play, that one was free. Others would be too, the referee seemingly reluctant to pull out cards.

Next, Fonte headed and Ronaldo had a shot blocked, yet Uruguay appeared reasonably comfortable. There were crosses in, but mostly they were just headed out again. And if Godin and Giménez didn’t get to them, Fernando Muslera did, a steadying presence advancing from his line. There was sharpness when they sprung too, Betancur offering clarity, Cáceres overlapping on the right, Suárez looking quicker now. Before this match he said that he felt better physically than in the opening match, adding with a grin: “Although that doesn’t take much.”

He was not feeling too good when Guerreiro crashed into his back and he crumpled to the floor – holding his head – and Portugal attacked regardless. That came to nothing but a corner in the end, just as the final opportunity of the half did, when Godin’s wild hoof, up and up and away beyond the first tier, finally dropped in the area and Cavani – whose control had already impressed from a speared 60-yard Muslera clearance – brought it down inside the area, but scuffed his shot past the near post to close a half of one incredible goal and not a huge amount more.

This game was soon reopened, though. Ronaldo scrambled it Bernardo Silva whose ball in was flicked back to Adrien Silva whose shot was blocked. From the corner, taken short and eventually delivered by Guerreiro, Pepe leapt behind Ronaldo and Godin to head in the equaliser. Having conceded their first goal in 2018, Uruguay were under pressure now, that comfort gone, unable to get out until a long ball released them and put them ahead once more. The ball, thumped up the pitch by Muslera, dropped near the Portugal area and Betancur was first to it, controlling and laying it to Cavani who curled a wonderful shot, first time into the far corner. Soon, though, he was departing – and Uruguay had 20 minutes to resist.

It was not going to be easy. Bernardo Silva offered a little more subtlety to what had previously been a more frontal attack; his run on one side drew a corner and then, on the other side, Matias Vecino stood firm as Ronaldo dribbled into the area. There was tiredness, a little space too, nerves, Uruguay occasionally even being caught ahead of the ball, losing the ball in unusually compromising positions. When Carlos Sanchez gave up possession, Quaresma’s curling cross with the outside of his foot just evaded Ronaldo’s leap.

The momentum built, Portugal coming back more insistently, Suarez an island battling with Pepe and often beating him. Real chances were few, though, two long and inoffensive Manuel Fernandes shots never a genuine threat. Just as the board went up, Ronaldo dashed inside, an opportunity to shoot but his effort sliced a long way wide.

Then Diego Laxat dived to produce an extraordinary clearance before a long ball up found Suarez again, alone against the world, who got away from three defenders and delivered a cross to Cristian Rodriguez. His control escaped him, taking the opportunity with it.

Cavani’s goals would be enough, but not before Rui Patricio found himself leaping, bodied tumbling around him, as Portugal launched one last desperate ball into the Uruguay box.


Uruguay               2-1          Portugal

E CAVANI 7’, 62                 Pepe 55