By Sudipto Ganguly
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani scored a stunning brace to lead the South Americans to a 2-1 win over European champions Portugal in the World Cup round of 16 on Saturday and set up a quarter-final against France.
Cavani switched play with a long cross to Luis Suarez and continued his run to head home a pinpoint deep cross from the Barcelona forward and give Uruguay a seventh-minute lead.
Portugal defender Pepe made Uruguay pay for sitting back when he leapt unmarked to head in a cross from Raphael Guerreiro following a short corner to level the match at 1-1 in the 55th minute.
That was the first goal the twice World Cup champions had conceded in the tournament in Russia, but it took Cavani only seven minutes to put them back ahead at the packed Fisht Stadium overlooking the Black Sea.
The Paris St Germain forward curled in a first-time right-foot shot from Rodrigo Bentancur’s pass to beat Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio before going off injured in the 74th minute as the Uruguay defence dug in to hold on to their lead.
“Happy for what happened today, I hope we can go further,” Cavani said. “It’s exciting… there are no words to describe this. Really, really, really happy – look at our fans! I want to continue dreaming.”
Portugal, who won Euro 2016 in France, dominated possession but their attack did not have enough bite to break through the Uruguay defence twice, leaving captain Cristiano Ronaldo a frustrated figure during the entire match.
The Real Madrid forward could not add to his four goals in the first two matches, failing to improve his record of failing to score in all six World Cup knockout matches he has played.
Ronaldo had an opportunity in the first half to score from a free kick about 30 metres out but could only hit the wall.
“It’s not a fair result, we did enough for another result,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.
“Uruguay scored with their first shot on our goal. We are very sad but that’s football.”
Uruguay will play France in the last eight in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday.