Pepe stars, Ricardo Pereira struggles as Portugal come up short vs. Uruguay
Portugal's World Cup campaign came to an end in Sochi on Saturday as they were beaten by a brilliant brace from Uruguay centre-forward Edinson Cavani. For all the possession that Fernando Santos' team enjoyed throughout the last-16 match, there was little end product. Pepe's equaliser gave Portugal hope and the Selecao for a brief period looked the likelier team to progress, but Cavani soon restored Uruguay's lead and with a record of just one win in four matches, Portugal will look back on this tournament as a disappointment.
A tactical switch by Santos perhaps points the way for Portugal going forward. Despite his undoubted talent, Bernardo Silva has rarely produced his best football for the national team, stationed on the right of midfield. Santos moved him into the middle after half-time -- a position many have been calling for him to occupy -- and he was much more effective, looking like Portugal's most likely route back into the game.
There was a strong feeling pre-tournament that this Portugal squad was stronger than the Euro 2016-winning squad, but most of the newcomers have singularly failed to impress. Gonçalo Guedes, Andre Silva and Ricardo Pereira did not prove to be the upgrades they were expected to be, while two stars of the triumph in France two years ago, Joao Mario and Raphael Guerreiro, were well below par.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- A last-16 finish is disappointing, but more disappointing still is Portugal's failure to truly fire in any of their matches in Russia. Fernando Santos' surprise inclusion of Ricardo Pereira for Cedric Soares at right-back backfired badly, his persistence on using Gonçalo Guedes as a central striker simply has not worked, and none of his substitutions proved effective. On the flip side, Santos made a good tactical switch at half-time by moving Bernardo into the middle.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Rui Patricio, 7 -- The new Wolves goalkeeper is one of the few Portugal players to enhance his reputation at this World Cup, looking solid and commanding throughout the tournament. Made an excellent save in the 22nd minute from a Luis Suarez free kick and there was nothing he could do about the clinical finishing by Cavani.
DF Ricardo Pereira, 4 -- A surprise inclusion in the starting XI, the new Leicester right-back had a very poor game. Presumably drafted in because of his offensive threat in comparison to Cedric, he never managed to provide the width or crossing in the final third that Portugal needed, and looked extremely shaky at the back.
DF Pepe, 8 -- Many Portugal fans shudder at the thought of Cristiano Ronaldo hanging up his international boots, but Pepe, who earned his 99th cap for Portugal on Saturday, is another magnificent servant who will be sorely missed. In another fine display of wholehearted commitment and no little defensive acumen, he also found time to head in Portugal's equaliser.
DF Jose Fonte, 7 -- Did little wrong tonight or at this tournament and formed a solid partnership with Pepe at the heart of Portugal's defence. Was not far away from heading in a quick equaliser in the first half.
DF Raphael Guerreiro, 5 -- Clearly badly out of form, Guerreiro had another poor match, proving to be Portugal's weak link at the back once again. He looked on instead of tracking Cavani's run for the first goal and lacked the spark going forward that is usually his strong point.
MF William Carvalho, 7 -- Arguably Portugal's most consistent player at Russia 2018, William was again the starting point for many of Portugal's attacking moves and his impeccable passing was rarely anything other than perfectly accurate. Provided good cover for his defence.
MF Adrien Silva, 6 -- After he starred against Iran it was a surprise to see Adrien fail to get into a game that was apparently well-suited to his aggressive, tenacious, all-action style. That being said, the match largely passed him by and he uncharacteristically misplaced several passes.
MF, Joao Mario, 6 -- Joao Mario has had two disappointing seasons at club level and it showed in this World Cup, the talented midfielder failing to make an impact on games. He started well tonight, and there were flashes of the clever passing and progression he is capable of, but his influence waned as the match wore on -- when Portugal needed him most.
MF Bernardo Silva, 8 -- Did more than anyone to haul Portugal back into the match, excelling in the second half after Santos moved him into the centre. Uruguay's defenders couldn't get near him as he embarked on several mazy runs with the ball glued to his left foot, and he whipped in several dangerous crosses.
FW Goncalo Guedes, 4 -- Inconsequential in his contribution, Guedes looked out of his depth, although he is evidently not helped by Santos' decision to play him as a central striker. Several instances of terrible ball control and a comical handball when in a dangerous position summed up a forgettable World Cup for the youngster.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 7 -- Ronaldo started his World Cup in spectacular fashion with a hat trick against Spain and a header early in Portugal's second match, but it's been downhill since then. The captain worked tirelessly tonight, often drifting to the flanks and dropping deep to get on the ball and try to make things happen, but he made no headway against Uruguay's impressive defence and was sloppy with his passing.
FW Ricardo Quaresma, 5 -- After his wonder goal against Iran some expected him to start, but when Santos turned to Quaresma he overcomplicated matters and could not provide the bullets for Ronaldo or Andre Silva to net the equaliser.
FW Andre Silva, N/R -- Brought on with Portugal throwing everything forward for an equaliser, he didn't get the chance to take aim.
MF Manuel Fernandes, N/R -- Seemed intent on scoring a long-range equaliser, but none of his efforts caused problems for Uruguay
Tom Kundert covers Portuguese football for ESPN FC. Twitter: @PortuGoal1.