SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez lauded his side’s dedication and commitment on Saturday after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Portugal took them into the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Edinson Cavani, who failed to finish the match after suffering a late injury, scored a superb goal in each half, and although Pepe scored in-between, it was not enough to halt the Uruguayans, who have now won all four of their matches so far in Russia.
“The distinctive feature of the game was the dedication the players showed on the pitch, and that is the way that we see football,” Tabarez said. “It was difficult. Portugal had more possession and were often in our half of the pitch, and it would have been better for us to have more of the ball and play the game closer to their goal.
“Today we committed a mistake that led to the equaliser but we have a very strong team in terms of mindset,” Tabarez added, citing the value of his team’s “intensity, focus and tactical intuition”.
Portugal had 61 percent of the possession and four times as many shots at goal as the Uruguyans but Tabarez dismissed possession as a mere statistic and said what mattered was creating and converting chances.
“I think there is often a mistaken assumption that possession leads to goal-scoring opportunities,” said the former coach of Cagliari and AC Milan.
“I learnt that in Italy when I worked there. In Italy ball possession isn’t sanctified as it is elsewhere. Even if you don’t have a lot of possession you can inflict pain on your opponent.”
Tabarez saluted man-of-the-match Cavani but said he was not sure whether the Paris St Germain striker, who limped off in the 74th minute, would be ready for next Friday’s quarter-final against France.
“Cavani sustained an injury tonight and we will have to see how that evolves as it’s not clear at this stage how serious it is,” he said. “But as always, we will bank on the strength of our team as a collective. That is our best chance against any adversary, and we know that France will be very tough indeed.”
Uruguay, world champions in 1930 and 1950, will play France, who beat Argentina 4-3 earlier in the day, in Nizhny Novgorod on July 6.
Reporting by Andrew Downie,; Editing by Neville Dalton