LUSAIL — A second half brace from Bruno Fernandes sent Portugal through to the last 16 of the World Cup on Monday to join France and Brazil after a 2-0 win over a lackluster Uruguay.
Fernandes scored with a cross intended for Cristiano Ronaldo that sailed fortuitously into the net on 54 minutes and converted a spot kick in stoppage time to put his side into the knockout stages with a match remaining.
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Portugal had the lion’s share of the possession and dominated for most of the Group H match, but struggled to create clear-cut chances until the second half in a game where Uruguay looked jaded and out of sorts.
It was the third time at a World Cup that Portugal had won two successive group stage matches and the previous two times led to streaks into the semi-finals.
Ronaldo set the tone for the match with some early showboating when he used a shoulder to redirect a long throw into the path of William Carvalho, whose powerful volley sailed over the bar.
Portugal looked threatening on the approach but struggled to create goalscoring chances, with Bernardo Silva, Fernandes and Joao Felix frustrated in front of goal early on.
But it was Uruguay with the best chance of the half 32 minutes in when Rodrigo Bentancur picked up the ball and ran half the length of the field, skipping around three defenders before firing off a low shot that was blocked by the advancing keeper Diogo Costa.
Bentancur was at the center of the action again a few minutes later when his outstretched leg met a cross from the left from Mathias Olivera, trickling through to Darwin Nunez who failed to convert from close range.
Portugal battled hard for a goal and Felix came close on 52 minutes when he blasted low into the side netting.
They finally broke the deadlock two minutes later when Fernandes’ cross floated past Uruguayan goalkeeper Sergio Rochet, who was rooted to the spot as Cristiano Ronaldo rose to head the ball and initially celebrated the goal as his.
Uruguay had a brief rally to try to get back into the match after a raft of substitutions, with Facundo Pellistri making an instant impact, Luis Suarez coming close and Maxi Gomez hitting the post.
But the match belonged to Portugal and Fernandez, who coolly converted a penalty in stoppage time after a handball in the box that required a VAR review.
Hungry for more, Fernandes almost scored a hat-trick deep into stoppage time, with his effort saved at the near post by Rochet and a strike in the dying moments that cannoned off the post. (Reporting by Martin Petty, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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