Edinson Cavani scored twice as Uruguay shattered Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup dream with a 2-1 victory over Portugal on Saturday.
Paris Saint-Germain striker Cavani curled home a superb 62nd-minute winner to settle a thrilling second round duel in Sochi which sends Uruguay into a quarter-final against France next Friday.
Cavani had already put Uruguay in front early on, only for Pepe to head Portugal level in the 55th minute in a thrilling contest that was not the battle of attrition many predicted.
Here, we analyse the performance of the star man Cavani.
Goals – 2
Assists – 0
Shots – 3
Shots on target – 2
Touches – 31
Aerials won – 2
Dribbles – 1
Dispossessed – 2
It’s a rare sight to see deadly duos operate as a side’s spearhead in modern football given the near extinction of 4-4-2, but seeing Cavani wheeling away in celebration is far from unfamiliar as both he and Luis Suarez synchronised superbly to knock out Portugal.
Their telepathic understanding created the opener, a testament to the pair’s elite talent but beyond the skill, their will deeply impressed as the two worked tirelessly all night.
Cavani was the best player on the pitch, though, dropping back to make a midfield five and getting through so much work to cut out Portugal’s options out wide.
While his first goal was an awkward finish, the second was clean and clinical and one hopes the injury which forced him off shortly after isn’t too serious.
Work rate – Put aside the goals for a moment because Cavani put in an immense shift. For such a world-class talent his work rate is phenomenal. To balance an ego and confidence in front of goal with the ability to tirelessly help out his teammates is a unique marriage of attributes.
Finishing – No surprise really given he extracted two goals from three shots. He’s a sharpshooter and arriving in Russia with 38 goals in all competitions he’s carried that form into the tournament.
Master of movement – Cavani is such an underrated striker. His anticipation, timing and angle of runs deserve to be marvelled at. He’s constantly on the move and young strikers should study this master of movement.
7th min GOAL: The dynamic duo deliver a devastating one-two as Cavani pings a precise ball out to Suarez on the left wing, the Barcelona man tears to the right-hand post and then delivers a cracking cross. Cavani pulls off his man and awkwardly connects with his throat but the ball squirms home. They deserved their fortune for the build-up alone.
13th min GREAT PLAY: Cavani is absolutely everywhere and he presses the Portugal defence into submission, throttles the ball away from them and then immediately plays in Suarez who is outnumbered in the box and is forced to settle for a corner.
62nd min GOAL: In a World Cup containing an abundance of stunning strikes, Cavani just adds another with a peach of a first-time finish for his second. Pepe charges out and misses his header, Rodrigo Bentancur profits, it’s three versus four. Cavani drifts wide and Bentancur shifts it to him on the left as he caresses the ball into the opposite corner.
72nd min SUB: This is really unfortunate. Cavani is forced to come off as he clutches his calf. Ronaldo rather sportingly helps him off the pitch and the striker misses out on his hat-trick as he’s replaced by Cristhian Stuani.
His hold up play was excellent, he dropped deep and made tackles, pressed and bullied then produced the goods in front of goal.
A complete forward’s performance and you’re unlikely to see a better all-round display from a forward in Russia.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
La Celeste got off to a sublime start in Sochi when Cavani emphatically nodded in a cross from strike partner Luis Suarez.
The European champions got back on level terms early in the second half when Pepe headed in Raphael Guerreiro’s hanging cross.
They weren’t level for long though, with Cavani curling Uruguay back in front with a superb effort seven minutes later.
Portugal pushed but with Cristiano Ronaldo uninspiring, Uruguay doggedly held on.
Here we rate the Uruguay players:
Fernando Muslera – 6:
A fairly quiet outing, although his handling was a little suspect. Could do nothing about Pepe’s equaliser.
Martin Caceres – 6:
Playing in a slightly unfamiliar role of right-back, but slotted in superbly. Relatively comfortable evening.
Jose Gimenez – 6:
Stood tall next to Godin but he’ll have harder evenings than this. 100 per cent pass accuracy, but only made 13.
Diego Godin – 6:
Solid and strong without ever having to be called into drastic action. Might have expected to be busier but didn’t really have to withstand a barrage from Portugal as Uruguay were relatively untroubled.
Diego Laxalt – 8:
Another youngster who’s impressed in Russia. Got a start at left-back and put in another stoic performance. Five tackles led Uruguay. Was superb.
Nahitan Nandez – 7:
A willing runner from midfield, always marauding forward in support of his forwards. Belied young years with a mature performance.
Lucas Torreira – 7:
A tenacious display as he put himself about, haranguing Portugal’s midfield and not giving them a moment’s peace. Late cramp was a sign of his efforts. Blocked four shots – more than the rest of his team combined.
Matias Vecino – 6:
Solid if unspectacular but kept watch and helped to shackle Portugal’s key men. A few poor touches but made two tackles and two clearances.
Rodrigo Bentancur – 7:
The 21-year-old has started all four games and has grown in stature with each game. Was fantastic here, his match summed up as he laid the ball into the path of Cavani for his fine curler.
Edinson Cavani – 8:
Unselfish and hard-working in the group, he came alive when his side needed him most. Towering header gave Patricio no chance and sumptuous curled effort made it 2-1.
Luis Suarez – 7:
Perfect cross for Cavani as the dynamic duo teamed up for their side’s crucial opener. Was an absolute pest for Portugal, a perfect performance without getting a goal.
Cristian Rodriguez – 6:
Came on to add his experience. Solid but fluffed badly late on when presented with a chance to win it.
Cristhian Stuani – 6:
Added some steel as Uruguay looked to hold onto their lead. Two fouls summed up his thinking.
Carlos Sanchez N/A:
Came on to give the tireless Nandez a breather.
France roared back against Argentina to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday as Kylian Mbappe sent Lionel Messi home empty-handed following a seven-goal thriller.
Antoine Griezmann gave France the lead from the penalty spot but the South Americans levelled through a sweet hit from Angel Di Maria and edged ahead shortly after half-time through Gabriel Mercado.
But defender Benjamin Pavard equalised with a thunderous strike to pull France level before Mbappe netted two goals in four second-half minutes to become the first teenager to score at least twice in a World Cup match since Pele in 1958.
Sergio Aguero gave Argentina late hope but they ran out of time and head home. Here we examine the big talking points.
A SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER
Some contests contain one or two elements which make for great entertainment. Others hurtle into a space of near absurdity that you start to wonder if you’ve failed to suspend your imagination.
Indeed, France’s victory was a vomit of every epic motif you can think of, an instant classic only a bore would attempt to downplay.
While society is permeated by knee-jerk reactions through the quick-to-hand medium of social media, this deserves all acclaim because it’s impossible not to be swallowed up by its chaotic nature.
The lead was exchanged three times. There were seven goals in total – two of them (Pavard and Di Maria) were absolutely blockbuster, another (Mbappe’s second) was poetic in its simplicity and effectiveness.
And let’s first pause to discuss the glorious goals because they warrant entire scripts dedicated to them. Di Maria’s screamer was only matched for intensity by his wild shriek in celebration as the Paris Saint-Germain winger unleashed a beast of a left-footed strike beyond Hugo Lloris from 30-yards – the longest strike of the tournament so far.
After that, Pavard sent us all into a dizzying spin with a balletic effort of raw technique which is comfortably the best we’ve seen in Russia.
And not to be overshadowed, France’s fourth was a beautiful and brutal cut-throat counter-attack which started with Lloris and ended with Mbappe clinically grabbing his second.
Entwined within the plot twists, was the granting of A-list standing for Mbappe for a breakout performance while Messi, as far as the World Cup is concerned at least, was consigned to washed-up status.
Part one of the 2018 World Cup was memorable and thanks to this masterpiece, part two is threatening to stretch that narrative.
WONDER BOY IS THE SUPERHERO
If the game was like a movie in its plot, then Mbappe was its star. The 19-year-old transitioned from his ‘Wonder Boy’ role and into ‘Superhero’ stature with a performance of piercing pace and perfect poise.
The visible panic on the faces of Argentina defenders every time the PSG man ran at them was one of the hallmarks of the clash.
And Paul Pogba deserves some credit here as well because if Mbappe was the bullet, he was holding the gun.
Indeed, the Manchester United creator barely needed to look up before firing accurate long balls into the teenager and a precisely lofted pass almost created another opportunity for Mbappe to vaporise the France backline as he earned a free-kick after his earlier slalom from deep in his own half led to the penalty.
Ultimately, though, Mbappe rightly leads the stellar reviews because his acceleration after changing direction, his ability to shift the ball out of congested areas and his fiercely calm finishing ability leads us to believe we’re witnessing a very special talent emerge onto the world stage.
A MESSI ENDING
As we move through the commentary of this thriller, we reach a point of finality. Mbappe’s rise may well be in its infancy but for Messi and the World Cup, it is surely a sad climax.
The Barcelona icon will be 35 when the next tournament approaches and even if, physically, age is to be no barrier, the emotion of yet another Argentina heartache will lead to a break up.
The 31-year-old hinted before heading to Russia it could be his last outing with the national team and despite flirting with international retirement previously it’s unlikely he’ll cheat himself again.
Yet, there is an argument to be made that while this iteration of Argentina is nothing without Messi, it is also because of him they are nothing.
The rest of the squad seemed to devalue itself with their star, captain, maybe even coach on such a lofty pedestal.
The desperation of teammates to funnel the ball through to Messi seemed to tunnel their own natural thoughts and it created so many errors. A schism in the relationship could be what’s best for all parties.