After scoring a confident chip in his national team’s opening FIFA World Cup game against Ghana, Atlético Madrid’s João Félix produced another effective performance for Portugal in a 2-0 win over Uruguay on Monday. The controversy-tinged victory at Lusail Stadium sealed Portugal’s place in the last 16 — and it leaves qualification in the air for José Giménez’s Uruguay this weekend.
Portugal appeared vulnerable on the counterattack throughout the first half and almost fell behind after Tottenham midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur nearly pulled off a spectacular solo goal. But Bruno Fernandes found the back of the net early in the second half with a looping cross that Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet misjudged, and the Manchester United midfielder doubled the Seleção Portguesa’s advantage from the spot after Giménez was called for a dubious handball penalty in stoppage time.
João Félix made his second consecutive start at this World Cup and drew Atlético teammate Giménez in a physical, entertaining one-on-one battle. João played 82 minutes and only teammate Bruno (with 6) attempted more shots (3). According to FIFA statistics, the 23-year-old completed 28 of 35 passes, suffered four fouls, and received the ball 13 times between the midfield and defensive lines, helping to progress the play as his side enjoyed around 60 percent possession.
Though João moved, at times silkily, between the lines, Atlético’s record signing only completed one of his eight attempted line-breaking passes, per FIFA statistics. He also picked up a late yellow card for a rash foul on former teammate Luis Suárez (one of four he committed on the night), the kind of petulant reaction that has frustrated Atleti fans before.
But while this was an imperfect display from João, he appears to have earned coach Fernando Santos’s trust after a couple years on the Portugal periphery. Delivering in the knockout stages in Qatar will help the player engineer the big-money transfer away from Atlético that he wants — and that the club appears to be seriously considering for the first time.