Clinical Cavani gives Ronaldo a finishing masterclass to dump out Portugal

The PSG striker scored with both of his shots on goal as Uruguay knocked the European champions out of the World Cup with a 2-1 win in Sochi

First Lionel Messi, now Cristiano Ronaldo. The World Cup has lost its two biggest names.

Both bowed out on the same day. Both failed to score, meaning both remain without a goal in the knockout stage of the tournament’s knockout stage.

Edinson Cavani, though, has two; the two that eliminated Ronaldo and European champions Portugal on an absorbing night of drama at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi.

This last-16 clash had been billed as a straight shootout between Clasico rivals Ronaldo and Suarez but it was Cavani who proved the deadliest marksman on the pitch.

Indeed, ‘El Matador’ provided a masterclass in the art of finishing: two shots, two goals. They were things of beauty too.

Suarez had been asked on the eve of the game if there was any rivalry between him and Cavani.

“Not at all,” he replied. “We work for Uruguay. We work together.”

No arguments there. After just seven minutes of an absorbing last-16 tie, Suarez and Cavani combined for if not the greatest one-two ever seen, certainly the longest. 

Cavani had instigated it with a sweeping cross-field pass from close to the right touchline, that his strike partner instantaneously controlled on the opposite flank.

The Barcelona man took a touch inside, giving his fellow forward just enough time to pelt into the area and get his head (face or shoulder!) on the end of a vicious, in-swinging cross. 

It would be Suarez’s only successful pass to Cavani in the entire first half because if the opening goal was all about the front two, what followed was almost all about the two men at the heart of the Uruguayan defence, Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez.

For the remainder of the opening period, the Celeste invited Portugal on to them. However, they were tight and compact in the middle of the field, forcing the Seleccao to go wide and try their luck with crosses into the area.

Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, makes for an excellent target but he got no joy out of Uruguay’s central defensive duo, who cleared everything that came their way.

Indeed, Portugal were afforded just seven touches in the Celeste box in the opening 45 minutes; Ronaldo got none.

He managed one early in the second half, though, diverting a cross into the path of Adrian Silva, whose shot was deflected out for a corner.

One certainly wouldn’t have expected Uruguay to concede their first goal since November of last year from a set-piece but they switched off and, as Raphael Guerreiro, whipped the ball into the area, Godin appeared to be left utterly alone, forced to make a choice between challenging Ronaldo or Pepe.

He unsurprisingly plumped for the former but the ball was bound for the latter, who levelled matters with an emphatic header.

With the seemingly impenetrable blue wall belatedly breached, the momentum appeared to be with Portugal.

But Cavani hadn’t gone anywhere and all he needed was another sight of goal to put Uruguay back ahead, sweeping home with a smart, first-time finish after an enticing pass into his path by the excellent Rodrigo Bentancur.

His joy turned to anguish with 17 minutes to go when he was forced off through injury, with Ronaldo, in an act of nice sportsmanship, helping the stricken forward from the field.

Portugal were unable to exploit Cavani’s exit, though. Ronaldo did his best but this was not his night. 

He had hit a hat-trick on his last visit to Sochi in the 3-3 draw with Spain on matchday one. He didn’t even get close to scoring one on his return.

As a result, his World Cup is over, just like Messi’s. The major hope now is that injury doesn’t deprive us of Cavani too after such a stunning masterclass in forward play and finishing.

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