Ronaldo's Portugal outgunned by Suarez and Cavani's Uruguay

In the global battle of the super strikers, it was advantage South America as Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani’s Uruguay knocked Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal out of the World Cup Saturday. Following Lionel Messi and Argentina’s earlier loss to France, the result arguably marked the second time in one day that the world’s greatest player had been eliminated from the tournament.

There were just seven minutes on the clock at Fisht Stadium in Sochi when Suarez and Cavani combined to devastating effect to put the South Americans ahead. It was Cavani who launched the attack, switching play to the opposite flank where his ball found a charging Suarez. The Barcelona striker burst down the wing and cut around his marker to find space at the edge of the box to cross the ball back across goal for Cavani to head in at the far post.

Uruguay did an excellent job of minimizing Portugal’s chances as the half wore on. But the European side came out fighting after the break. Pepe pulled one back just 10 minutes into the second half, outjumping the Uruguayan defense to head a corner from Raphael Guerreiro past keeper Fernando Muslera and make it 1-1.

But Uruguay responded almost instantly. Just moments before being subbed off for Christian Rodriguez, midfielder Rodrigo Betancur collected the ball on the break and under pressure from two charging Portugal defenders, crossed it to Cavani. The PSG striker took a first time hit to boot a shot past a diving Rui Patricio to score what proved the match-winner.



Ronaldo fails to fire

It’s unfair to write Portugal off as a one-man team. It is still the reigning champion of Europe after all. But Ronaldo has been at the heart of much of what went right for Portugal at this World Cup. In a match where the Real Madrid superstar registered just a single shot on goal, the full extent of the mediocrity of his teammates was exposed for all to see.

Ronaldo may have provided the fireworks in the early stages of this tournament, but if World Cup success is the standard by which we measure greatness, neither Ronaldo or Messi ultimately did enough to lift one over the other. Both failed to progress beyond the Round of 16 and both will leave Russia still in search of their first goal in the knockout stages of a World Cup. Modern soccer’s great debate looks set to continue.

Luis Suarez of Uruguay shakes hands with Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Uruguay and Portugal at Fisht Stadium on June 30, 2018, in Sochi, Russia. (Getty Images)

What’s the ceiling for Uruguay?

Despite being one of just five teams to have won the World Cup more than once and boasting two of the finest strikers in European soccer in its attack, Uruguay flew under most people’s radar heading into this World Cup. Even topping its group did little to raise expectations for coach Oscar Tabarez’s team in the tournament’s opening stages. But one thing Uruguay didn’t do, was drop any points as it racked up successive wins against Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, without ever managing to look overly troubled.

The opening goal against Portugal was the first time this World Cup we saw the full extent of just what a fully unleashed Cavani and Suarez might be capable of as we head into the business end of the tournament. At the other end of the field, there’s a rock-solid defense anchored by Atletico Madrid center back pairing, Diego Godin and Jose’ Gimenez, that’s given up just one goal in four matches at the 2018 World Cup.

If there’s a concern for Uruguay going forward, it may be whether or not Suarez can do it without his strike partner, if the injury that saw Cavani limp off with the aid of Ronaldo proves serious.

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