Sorry, Cristiano, Bruno is Portugal's best player! Winners, losers and ratings as Fernandes fires Seleccao into last 16
Cristiano Ronaldo did what he could to try take centre stage but there was no denying who was the star of the show in Portugal's 2-0 win over Uruguay on Monday night – Bruno Fernandes.
The Manchester United forward was credited with both goals as the Seleccao sealed their place in the last 16 with one game to spare.
His first strike was actually a cross, one that Ronaldo claimed to have got a touch on, but the replays showed that there had been no contact.
Bruno's second goal came courtesy of the penalty spot, with Ronaldo having already been removed from the action, and he went desperately close to completing what would have been a deserved hat-trick, with his late shot from the edge of the area striking the base of the post.
Below, GOAL runs through the winners and losers from a Fernandes masterclass at the magnificent Lusail Iconic Stadium that illustrated precisely why he is now Portugal's most important player...
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Did Ronaldo get a touch on the Fernandes cross that ended up in the back of the net? In reality, it doesn't matter who gets the credit, as it won't change the fact that Bruno was the best player on the pitch. Again. The Manchester United man was outstanding in Portugal's win over Ghana, racking up two assists to turn the game decisively in his country's favour. And he was fantastic again here, always looking the man most likely to make something happen. Ronaldo will once again dominate all the headlines but Bruno is balling at this World Cup, and appears more than capable of challenging the likes of Kylian Mbappe for the Golden Ball.
The Portugal goalkeeper so very nearly cost his side victory against Ghana after failing to realise that Inaki Williams was lurking behind him in the dying seconds, just waiting to pounce as he prepared to launch the ball upfield. Luckily for Costa, the forward slipped after pilfering possession. Here, though, Costa was key to his side's success, coming up big on two one-on-ones. There may have been an element of fortune about the way in which he took the power out of Bentancur's shot, but Costa deserves immense credit for the way in which he spread himself to block the ball whatever way he could.
Ghana's revenge mission:
Ghana have waited a long time for this. It may not be a World Cup semi-final but they will get another crack at Uruguay in a monumental matchday-three encounter that will most likely determine who progresses to the last 16 of Qatar 2022, some 12 years after their controversial elimination from South Africa 2010 at the hands of Luis Suarez. A point might well be enough for the Black Stars but they will be going all out for the victory that would secure a place in the knockout stage, as well as a sweet revenge victory over the Celeste.
Nuno Mendes' World Cup had only just belatedly begun. Now, it might already be over. The Paris Saint-Germain full-back had missed Portugal's tournament-opener against Ghana with a hamstring problem but he was recalled to the starting line-up to face Uruguay. Sadly, he was forced off before the break with a suspected recurrence of the injury. At the time of writing, we don't yet know the severity of the issue, but the tears streaming down Mendes' face as he limped off the field suggested it's a bad one.
Cristiano Ronaldo's robbery attempt:
The Portugal captain was labelled a "genius" by Sunday Oliseh for the way in which he won the penalty he converted in the 3-2 win over Ghana, and the veteran's craftiness was on show again here, as he claimed to have gotten a touch on Fernandes' ball into the area. You can't blame a man for trying, of course, and there's no doubt that his attempt to get his head on the ball played a massive part in the cross beating Sergio Rochet. But let's face it, Ronaldo is going to get plenty of stick for trying to claim a goal that wasn't his. He is, after all, one of the game's most polarising players.
The handball rules:
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) stated last year that a free-kick or penalty should not be awarded if the ball strikes the hand of a player who is falling or using his arm for support. So, why on earth were Portugal given a penalty here? Jose Gimenez's contact was clearly unintentional and yet VAR flagged the 'foul' before referee Alireza Faghani compounded the error by awarding a spot-kick after viewing the images on the touchline monitor. Seriously, if the officials aren't following IFAB directives, there's no hope of us getting any kind of consistency in decision-making. Let's also not forget that Bruno's penalty killed the game, ending Uruguay's hopes of an injury-time equaliser. Their players were rightly furious. It was a clearly incorrect call. Expect it all to kick off again very soon, when team IS NOT awarded a penalty in the same circumstances.
Liverpool supporters would have undoubtedly liked to have seen one of their beloved Uruguay forwards upstage Bruno in Lusail. However, the Reds' current centre-forward, Darwin Nunez, struggled to have any impact on the game whatsoever, his usual brand of chaos subdued by the Seleccao. As for former Anfield favourite Luis Suarez, he blew a massive chance to equalise shortly after coming off the bench. But who knows, maybe an eagerly-awaited World Cup reunion with Ghana on matchday three will bring the best out of the veteran forward?...
Portugal Ratings: Defence
Diogo Costa (8/10):
Made two massive saves from one-on-ones. One of the keys to victory after narrowly avoiding embarrassment against Ghana first time out.
Joao Cancelo (6/10):
Solid enough showing from the Manchester City man, who doesn't have quite the same freedom with his national team as he does at club level.
Ruben Dias (7/10):
Took a nasty blow to his ankle from Bentancur just six minutes in but recovered to put in a typically composed performance.
Justified his recall to the starting line-up with a decent display.
Nuno Mendes (5/10):
A miserable evening for the Paris Saint-Germain man, who was brought back into the starting line-up but forced off before the first half was out.
Bernardo Silva (6/10):
Made a rare error of judgement when he effectively blocked a pass that was destined to arrive at the feet of Felix in front of goal but his influence grew the longer the game wore on.
Ruben Neves (5/10):
Booked for a clumsy foul on Varela on the right-hand side of the area and later ended up on the wrong side of a equally poor challenge from Vecina. Subbed shortly after.
William Carvalho (5/10):
Replaced Otavio in the starting line-up and definitely added more physicality in midfield, but not much by the way of quality. Blazed over early on after getting on the end of a Ronaldo chest-down and made one dire attempt at a scooped pass.
Joao Felix (5/10):
First big opening arrived early in the second half and he shot weakly into the side-netting when he really should have tried to square the ball for Bruno. Not his best night, which is a shame, given he started the tournament so well.
Cristiano Ronaldo (6/10):
Some of his hold-up play and knockdowns were fantastic, including one with his chest that was impressively powerful. Played his part in the goal, but will be disappointed that he didn't get a decisive touch on the cross.
Bruno Fernandes (9/10):
Absolutely outstanding from start to finish. Played two breath-taking passes in the first half alone, one with the outside of his boot, while he ultimately won the game for Portugal with a cross-turned-shot and a coolly-taken penalty.
Subs & Manager
Raphael Guerreiro (6/10):
Came on in place of the injured Mendes just before the break. First big contribution was overhitting a cross when well-placed on the left wing but he did play the final pass before Fernandes' opener.
Rafael Leao (6/10):
Introduced in place of Neves with just over 20 minutes of normal time remaining and was immediately involved. Just lacked an end product.
Goncalo Ramos (N/A):
Replaced Ronaldo in the closing stages.
Joao Palhinha (N/A):
Took over in midfield from Carvalho in the 82nd minute.
Matheus Nunes (N/A):
Subbed on for Felix towards the end.
Fernando Santos (8/10):
Got pretty much everything spot on and deserves credit for taking off a tiring Ronaldo for the last 15 minutes or so.