Analysis: How Uruguay's collective effort paid off against Ronaldo's Portugal
Written by: Abhranil Roy
The South Americans' impressive strategies ensured a tragic exit for the Europeans.
The two-time World Cup winners outsmarted and outplayed the Euro Champions to win 2-1 in the Round of 16 games in Sochi.
Uruguay's clash against Portugal was looked forward to as one of the pick encounters in the knockout stages of the Mundial. The world was set to see Luis Suarez face off against Cristiano Ronaldo and relive their Madrid-Barcelona rivalry. And while the latter disappointed, the former delivered the goods in sensational fashion.
Coming into the match, the South Americans had nine points from three group games and scored five goals. Defensively, the looked as strong as ever, a factor that once again helped the South Americans against a strong opponent. The Europeans on the other hand, stuttered and limped their way to the Knockouts and were lucky to not lose to Iran in their final group game.
The Los Charruas set up in a 4-1-2-1-2, with Gimenez and Godin at central defence and Suarez and Cavani up front. The Seleccaos featured in a more flexible 4-4-2, with Goncalo Guedes and Ronaldo as strikers and Fonte and Pepe in the heart of defense.
The game kicked up in a good pace and Uruguay soon had the lead. A 7th-minute cross from Suarez was met with a spinning, diving header from Cavani who had evaded Pepe to find some space in the box. He twisted his neck in spectacular fashion to meet the ball and put it past Rui Patricio. The former Real Madrid man made up for it with a thumping 55th-minute equalizer but it would be enough. A brilliant Bentancur pass set up Cavani for the second goal in the 62nd minute and Portugal never got around to putting another one past Muslera.
As much as Portugal’s lack of quality in their offence is to be blamed for the loss, it is also an undeniable fact that the defensive discipline showed by the Uruguayans was outstanding. Both Raphael and Adrien, the fullbacks were denied any space to overlap by the hardworking Bentancur and Vecino. Laxalt was equally impressive at left-back, standing firm against the array of players lining up to take him on a one versus one.
In midfield, both Adrien Silva and William Carvalho were overshadowed by the excellent Lucas Torreira. The Arsenal target had so much to offer and one could see that he wanted to win desperately. Only Bernardo Silva had a notable game on the right side of the midfield. The Manchester City midfielder worked tirelessly as he played some intelligent through balls and definitely seemed to be in sync with the game’s tempo from the go. Unfortunately, he was unable to find support from elsewhere on the pitch and as such, was forced to pack his bags a lot earlier than he would have liked to.
Playing the role of dropping deep and staying up, both Ronaldo and Guedes (later Andre Silva) failed to break an impenetrable Uruguay defense down. The former repeatedly changed his position all across the front line, dropping incessantly from wing to attacking midfield and vice versa. He had a few notable chances but determined defending and poor luck meant that he will now be licking his wounds and blaming his misfortunes for the rest of his trip back home.
All in all, it is suffice to say that the team that deserved to win the game went through. The South Americans were smart in possession, dogged in defense and were awake and ready for anything that came their way. They will now be facing France in the quarterfinals, who knocked out Leo Messi’s Argentina earlier on Saturday.
The tournament is slowly turning out to be a farewell for the old guard and a welcome stage for a new generation of heroes but if the football remains this good, the fans will have little for complaining.
Published: Sun Jul 01, 2018 02:54 AM IST