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World Cup hits and misses: Cristiano Ronaldo has to let Bruno Fernandes take plaudits as Pepe pockets Darwin Nunez

BY SKYSPORTS
11.29.2022
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Plus: Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar came off the bench to score one goal and set up another as the Indomitable Lions rescued a point in their 3-3 draw with Serbia; Brazil’s rock solid approach looks like a template for World Cup success

Darwin Nunez was pocketed by Pepe

Darwin Nunez was pocketed by Pepe as Uruguay failed to score against Portugal

Is there a more frustrating player to watch than Darwin Nunez? He’s got it all. Yet blows so hot and cold.

To coin a classic Paul Merson phrase, Darwin Nunez is like a bag of Revels. One day he’s a delicious toffee – so succulent and silk. One day he’s a sickly coffee chocolate – getting marked out of the game by a 39-year-old Pepe for Portugal, who became the third-oldest outfield player in World Cup history by replacing the injured Danilo.

On paper the match-up looked a potential fertile area for Uruguay to exploit. Nunez – an £80m striker in his prime – up against a man who turns 40 in February playing without much defensive cover around him. However, Uruguay failed to exploit the obvious pace of Nunez. Yes, the service into him was nor up to standard but Nunez did not help his cause with a sketchy technical performance where his – and Edinson Cavani’s – hold-up play in attack continually meant Uruguay had no platform in the game. It was not until Nunez and Cavani were hooked with their team chasing an equaliser that Uruguay started to expose the flaws in the Portugal backline.

Uruguay now have a must-win clash with Ghana to keep their World Cup dream alive. Nunez may have to watch that from the bench judged on this showing.

Fernandes takes centre-stage for Portugal

Bruno Fernandes celebrates after doubling Portugal's lead from the penalty spot

Image: Bruno Fernandes celebrates after doubling Portugal’s lead from the penalty spot

The debate over Cristiano Ronaldo’s phantom touch on Bruno Fernandes’ cross for Portugal’s first goal against Uruguay will attract plenty of attention. But the fact that it goes down as a goal rather than assist does not alter Fernandes’ crucial role in it.

The Manchester United midfielder went on to score the second goal from a penalty that he had won. Add these goals to the two assists that he provided for his team-mates late in the win over Ghana and Fernandes might just be the player of the tournament so far.


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