Sochi: Edinson Cavani scored a pair of goals to lead Uruguay to a narrow 2-1 knockout-stage victory here Saturday over Portugal, although the star striker's status for the quarter-finals is in doubt after he had to leave the game with an injury.
Portugal's game plan at Fisht Olympic Stadium appeared to be focused on stopping FC Barcelona star Luis Suarez, who nevertheless assisted on one of Cavani's goals and played a key role in disrupting the defensive scheme of the Euro 2016 champions.
On offense, the Portuguese knew going in that they needed to transition more effectively from midfield to attack to set up scoring chances for superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
Uruguay countered, however, by making sure a forest of legs surrounded the Real Madrid talisman whenever he received a ball in the area.
The South Americans came out strong at the start of the game and opened the scoring in just the seventh minute on a well-constructed play.
Cavani got the opportunity started by sending a cross-field pass to Suarez and then moving forward into the penalty box. As if the two stars had rehearsed the play in practice, Suarez found the Paris Saint-Germain star with a perfectly placed cross to the far post that the latter headed home with authority.
Even so, more than 90 minutes left on the clock with Ronaldo on the field were an eternity, and eventually Portugal got the equalizer in the 55th minute.
That goal also came via the aerial game, although it was Pepe who headed the ball past Uruguayan net minder Fernando Muslera after a cross from the left side sailed over the Real Madrid superstar's head.
Portugal won Euro 2016 on the strength of its defense, allowing just one goal in the entire knockout stage of that tournament.
But Uruguay was able to create a new golden opportunity in the 62nd minute for Cavani, who received a pass on the left side from Betancur and fired a curving blast into the right side of the goal past Rui Patricio.
Portugal did its utmost to get the equalizer and had less to worry about on the other end when Cavani had to exit the game with a leg injury in the 74th minute.
But even though Ronaldo bitterly argued for a late foul and free kick (picking up a yellow card in the process) on a play in which Ricardo Quaresma went to the ground after contact with Cristhian Stuani and then Rui Patricio came forward in the final minute of second-half injury time, Uruguay hung on for the win.
Next up in the quarter-finals for the 1930 and 1950 World Cup champions will be powerhouse European side France, which had eliminated Argentina and Lionel Messi in a wild 4-3 contest earlier Saturday.