Patchy Portugal and unfazed Uruguay square off

Patchy Portugal and unfazed Uruguay square off

Ronaldo and Co need to put on a better show

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) and Uruguay's Luis Suarez will face off today in their second Group H match. (AFP photo)
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) and Uruguay's Luis Suarez will face off today in their second Group H match. (AFP photo)

DOHA: Portugal could qualify early for the next phase of the World Cup with a game remaining if they beat Uruguay on Monday, a task probably much easier said than done.

Uruguay have the World Cup edge in winning the tournament twice, albeit a few generations ago, and are more than familiar with Portugal, having knocked them out of the contest in 2018 in the round of 16.

Although Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show last Thursday, setting a record by scoring in his fifth World Cup in Portugal's 3-2 win over Ghana, his team lacked inspiration and have much to do to shake off a dismal run of World Cup form since reaching the semi-finals in 2006.

Uruguay, while failing to score any goals or even record any shots on target in their opener against a gritty South Korea last Thursday, were composed, organised and like a team capable of another deep World Cup run, with veterans and neophytes combining seamlessly and moving the ball with confidence.

All five goals of Portugal's opening game came in a frenetic final 25 minutes likened by coach Fernando Santos to a storm. He said he is untroubled going into the Uruguay match because he knows what needs fixing.

"It's nothing I'm worried about because I know that my players can do better than that, but that's football," he said. "I am totally confident that they can perform much better than this."

Portugal, with a habit of going down to the wire in the World Cup group stages, may want to avoid that this time with a final match against South Korea, the team that ended Germany's title defence in 2018.

Equally, Uruguay will want to avoid defeat against Portugal so their fate can remain in their own hands in their final match against Ghana.

Uruguay have looked good since Diego Alonso took over late last year and turned things around in qualifying. He has every player available in his squad, except Barcelona's Ronald Araujo, recovering from thigh surgery.

Alonso's defence looked sturdy against South Korea and he is blessed with plenty of attacking options through Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani -- despite their age -- and Liverpool's Darwin Nunez and Manchester United's Facundo Pellistri, who looked dangerous on their World Cup debuts.

Alonso expects a tough game today and for the group to be decided in the final match.

"Obviously the second game is key as is the third," he said. "Whether we qualify or not depends on us."

'Total genius'

Ronaldo showed "total genius" by winning a controversial penalty in Portugal's win over Ghana, Fifa technical study group member Sunday Oliseh said on Saturday.

The veteran striker went down after a tackle by Mohammed Salisu before scoring the resulting spot-kick to become the first man to net at five World Cups.

Ghana coach Otto Addo described the penalty decision as a "gift" to Ronaldo and said it was a "really wrong decision".

"Maybe the strikers are getting smarter," former Nigeria international Oliseh told a press conference when asked why more penalties were being awarded at the tournament so far than in previous years.

"If you look at the penalty Ronaldo got, let's face it, people can say what they want about this man, but the genius thought to just be patient and put my foot to touch the ball first before you, continue my leg so that you make contact with my leg -- that is total genius.

"Let's give the strikers the compliment for getting smarter."

Gomes dies at 66

Former Portugal international striker and FC Porto's greatest ever goalscorer Fernando Gomes has died aged 66, the club said on Saturday.

Gomes amassed a staggering haul of 355 goals in 452 games in two spells at Porto, winning the European Cup with them in 1987.

He also won the Golden Boot in 1983 and 1985 as top marksman in European club football.

Gomes also played in Spain at Gijon and ended his playing days in the Portuguese capital with Sporting Lisbon.

"He was a synonym for class, goals and style throughout his career," the Portuguese Football Federation said of the striker who was capped 47 times.

Porto said that Gomes had been suffering from cancer over the last three years.

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