Portugal still have room for Ronaldo

Left: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is marked tightly by Uruguay midfielders Lucas Torreira (second from left) and Nahitan Nandez in Sochi on Saturday. Below: Edinson Cavani opening the scoring for Uruguay. He also netted the winner after Pepe's equal
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is marked tightly by Uruguay midfielders Lucas Torreira (second from left) and Nahitan Nandez in Sochi on Saturday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
Left: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is marked tightly by Uruguay midfielders Lucas Torreira (second from left) and Nahitan Nandez in Sochi on Saturday. Below: Edinson Cavani opening the scoring for Uruguay. He also netted the winner after Pepe's equal
Edinson Cavani opening the scoring for Uruguay. He also netted the winner after Pepe's equaliser.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

Santos wants star man to continue after loss to Uruguay, who sweat over Cavani's fitness

SOCHI • Portugal manager Fernando Santos said he did not want Cristiano Ronaldo to walk away from international football after Portugal were knocked out of the World Cup after a 2-1 defeat by Uruguay on Saturday.

The Real Madrid star would not be drawn on his future, but offered a message of optimism as he departed the Fisht Stadium in Sochi. Ronaldo was unable to trouble Uruguay as they made it through to the quarter-finals against France and, at 33, with 154 caps, this could represent a watershed. But the forward departed the World Cup with four goals and with his manager insisting that there is still a place for him in the Portugal side.

"I am convinced that he has a lot to give in football," said Santos, whose own future is in doubt after the team's elimination. "There is a tournament in September, the Uefa League of Nations, and we hope that he is with us so that he can help the young players who will need their captain's example."

Ronaldo, though, was not forthcoming on what lies ahead.

"It's not the time to talk about the future of the coach, the players, the squad," he said.

"But rest assured that this national team will continue to be one of the best in the world.

"In my opinion, we were better than Uruguay... We hold our heads up high; Portugal will continue winning things."

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    Confederations champions left at the World Cup. European champions Portugal followed Australia (Asia) out of the tournament, while Cameroon (Africa), United States (North America, Central America and the Caribbean), Chile (South America) and New Zealand (Oceania) failed to qualify.

    1

    Lionel Messi is the only player to have delivered an assist in each of the past four World Cups.

    4/4

    France scored with all four of their shots on target against Argentina.

    10

    Goals on Saturday - the most goals on a day of World Cup knockout football since 1970, when the two semi-finals produced 11 goals.

    1,270

    Minutes Lionel Messi (eight games and 23 shots) and Cristiano Ronaldo (six games and 25 shots) have played in the World Cup knockout rounds without scoring.

The European champions were undone by two Edinson Cavani goals in Sochi, despite Pepe bringing them level at one point early in the second half.

Cavani hobbled off with 16 minutes left with a suspected hamstring injury but is hopeful he will be fit in time to face France on Friday in Nizhny Novgorod.

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said he was "worried" for the Paris Saint-Germain star while BBC pundit Martin Keown described Cavani being hurt as a "national disaster".

The 31-year-old has scored three goals for Uruguay so far in the tournament, and former Arsenal defender Keown said no striker puts himself in better positions to score than Cavani, who has a strong partnership with Luis Suarez.

The pair combined for the opener, with Cavani's cross-field pass from the right flank finding Suarez. The Barcelona striker then swung in a cross to the far post for Cavani to head home.

"Cavani has to thank Suarez today, but his movement has always been brilliant, finishing not always great but, for the first, he improvises brilliantly," said Keown.

"For making runs into the box, there is no one better. Doesn't always get credit he deserves but will get it today."

Pepe's equaliser was the first time the South Americans' defence had been breached in seven matches this year. But they stood firm after that and Cavani hit the winner with a curling strike into the far corner with his right foot.

They are beginning to look like genuine contenders moving into the latter stages in Russia and will now hope to stand up to the threat of the French attack, after Kylian Mbappe inspired them to a 4-3 win over Argentina earlier.

"Now we have a very strong opponent in France," Tabarez said. "But I think France's strong point is their attack with (Antoine) Griezmann and Mbappe and their exceptional pace. If you give France space, it becomes very difficult.

"We didn't presuppose anything coming here. The players came to play seven matches. We will see if we can do it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2018, with the headline 'Portugal still have room for Ronaldo'. Print Edition | Subscribe