LUSAIL, Qatar — Portugal pushed Uruguay to the brink of World Cup elimination here at the Lusail Stadium on Monday night.
Bruno Fernandes’ second-half goal, which Cristiano Ronaldo tried to claim, and Fernandes’ late penalty left the Uruguayans with a 2-0 defeat, and just one point and no goals through two games.
They’ll need to beat Ghana on Friday, in a rematch of the 2010 Luis Suarez handball game, to have hope of advancing.
They benched Suarez on Monday in an effort to spark an attack that had looked stale in a tournament-opening 0-0 draw with South Korea. But for much of Monday night, they bored a 88,668-person crowd to tears. Only Rodrigo Bentancur’s burst from midfield, through three Portuguese defenders, and into the penalty box enlivened the first half — but he was foiled by a smothering save from Diogo Costa.
Uruguay was disjointed and often dreadful, unable to play through its talented three-man midfield of Bentancur, Federico Valverde and Matías Vecino. Darwin Nuñez and Edinson Cavani, the front two, were disconnected. The back five, by their very existence, suggested that Uruguay manager Diego Alonso would have been perfectly satisfied with a draw.
But soon after halftime — and almost immediately after a fan ran onto the pitch with a rainbow flag and a shirt supporting Iranian women and Ukraine — Portugal broke a dull deadlock. Fernandes floated in a cross. Ronaldo leapt for it, didn’t touch it, and ran away with his hand in the air as the ball nestled in the back of the net.
He was initially awarded the goal. FIFA later gave it to Fernandes instead. Most of Portugal didn’t care either way. Fans oléd passes after the second goal, with a place in the Round of 16 all but in the bag. The final whistle clinched it.
The result, on the other hand, leaves Uruguay needing to answer all sorts of questions about its impotence, and about whether this is the end of the road for Suarez, Cavani and their golden generation on an international stage.
They came of age at the 2010 World Cup, and reached the knockouts in 2014 and 2018 as well. To prolong a brilliant era, they’ll need to beat Ghana in a game that will bring it full-circle. Back in 2010, they reached the World Cup semis after Suarez swatted away a would-be Ghana goal late in extra time. Ghana missed the resultant penalty, then lost a shootout.
Twelve years later, the Ghanaians will need only a draw to exact some measure of revenge. They would go through with a win, or a draw and anything but a multi-goal South Korea win over Portugal. And in any scenario that doesn’t include a Uruguay win, the South Americans would be out.