Cavani scores twice, Uruguay top Portugal to reach QF

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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Edinson Cavani’s time to be the star — whether for club or country — has been a long time coming and finally arrived on Saturday, as his two goals propelled Uruguay past Portugal and into the quarterfinals, for the second time in three tournaments, at the 2018 World Cup.

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Having been overshadowed by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain, and long played second fiddle to Luis Suarez for Uruguay, Cavani’s brace went a long way toward dispelling notion that he’s not a “big-game player” — for one day, at least.

It was Cavani and Suarez who threatened the Portuguese defense all day long, and it was Cavani and Suarez (and Cavani, in that order) who combined brilliantly for the game’s opening goal in the 7th minute.

Cavani played a 55-yard diagonal ball to Suarez, near the top of the penalty area, and — here’s the important part — continued his run afterwards. As if he’d been forgotten about since he took up a wide midfield spot on the field, the Paris Saint-German man was allowed to drift centrally and into the box before peeling away from the nearest defender just as Suarez dropped his cross on a dime, and the header was elementary.

Suarez forced Rui Patricio into a diving save in the 21 minute. After winning the free kick 30 yards from goal, Suarez drilled the dead-ball restart low, bouncing it through the wall and just inside Patricio’s left-hand post, but the Wolverhampton Wanderers man (signed this summer) came saw it the whole way.

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Either side of Suarez’s chance, it was all Portugal — from possession, to meaningful possession and scoring chances — and finally, after trailing for nearly 50 minutes, they were level after 55 minutes, thanks to Pepe’s unmarked header from Raphael Guerreiro’s corner kick.

The 1-1 scoreline wouldn’t last long, though, as Cavani scored his second of the day in stunning fashion — a perfectly placed curler from the edge of the penalty area to restore Uruguay’s lead just seven minutes later. Fernando Muslera played the ball long, it fell to Rodrigo Bentancur, and Bentancur slotted a deftly weighted ball to Cavani on the left. His finish, exquisite as could be, snuck inside the far post. It was a direct passage of play, but it was decisive and deadly.

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Up next for Uruguay will be a quarterfinals clash with France, one of the tournament’s most popular favorites. Les Bleus knocked off Argentina, in a 4-3 thriller, in the day’s first round-of-16 fixture.