While Ronaldo turns heads, Portugal keep winning

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo did what Cristiano Ronaldo does on Monday, scoring the goal that sent Portugal to the last 16 of the World Cup.

Or so it seemed for a minute or two at the Lusail Stadium, as Ronaldo celebrated like a goalscorer until it was revealed that Bruno Fernandes had delivered the decisive blow that now looks likely to determine the outcome of Group H.

Really matters? Isn’t it always about Ronaldo?

The most famous footballer in the world is always in the news, whether he plays or not, whether he is at his best level or not and, here, whether he is scoring or not.

Summary of Portugal vs Uruguay

Summary of Portugal vs Uruguay

Bruno Fernandes scored twice in Portugal’s 2-0 win.

The hard facts indicate that Portugal beat Uruguay 2-0 to secure a place in the group, with both goals registered by Fernandes on the back of an outstanding performance, signed with a clinical penalty kick in stoppage time.

However, fame and fortune in soccer are peculiar things. In the midst of it all, there is no bigger character than Ronaldo, who may not be in his absolute prime anymore, but he has momentum and drive, and at the age of 37 he helped Portugal significantly.

Despite all the turmoil in Ronaldo’s professional life in recent months, despite the explosive interview he conducted before this tournament, despite the way his presence always seems to overshadow any Portugal campaign, regardless of his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, he is still Ronaldo

As in, a player, an entertainer, to match the greatest stage in sports, a man for the occasion. The Portugal players understand that. They hug him. Because when Ronaldo is able and willing, and possibly happy, for all the focus to come to him, it takes the heat off their shoulders.

Let the likes of Fernandes be quietly excellent in their wake and establish, argue with me if you dare, Portugal as a serious contender to lift the trophy in three weeks’ time.

In the 54th minute of what was considered the most crucial game in Group H, Fernandes’ cross proved decisive. He sure Ronaldo tried to catch a glimpse of him and reacted as if he had, but Fernandes’ effort was credited with the goal that would ultimately leave Uruguay on the verge of elimination.

Ronaldo has never won the World Cup, and it would be the pinnacle of his glittering career if he did. He lasted until the 82nd minute before being substituted. Fernandes would add a second score and was denied a hat-trick when another effort clipped the post in stoppage time.

Winning two games in a row means there are no permutations for Portugal to consider going into their final group clash against South Korea. A single point would secure first place without a doubt, meaning they will most likely face Switzerland in the round of 16.

There are better players than Ronaldo these days, and he no longer has all the tricks and all the spark of a few years ago. But he still has the verve, the flair for the dramatic, the irresistible pull to the spotlight.

And, perhaps, more hungry than ever to win the biggest prize in football.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.

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