SOCHI: Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani has always played second fiddle to his more illustrious attacking colleagues at country or club level but the long-haired marksman emerged out of those shadows with his twin strike in the World Cup round of 16 last week.
Cavani scored a stunning brace to lead the South Americans to a 2-1 win over European champions Portugal on Saturday and set up a quarter-final clash against France.
He dominated the headlines but acclaim for the goals has been quickly replaced by concerns about the injury he sustained in the 74th minute against Portugal.
The player has a painful calf swelling but not a muscle tear, the country’s football federation (FCF) said on Monday, boosting his chances of facing France where he plays his club football for Paris Saint Germain.
A scan showed swelling in Cavani’s left calf muscle but no torn fibres, the FCF said in a statement.
“The player remains in pain. He will continue to do individual work and rehabilitation. His evolution is being monitored,” it said.
The Portgual game had been billed as a showdown between Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet Cavani stole the limelight early when he switched play a long cross to Suarez and continued his run to head home a pinpoint deep cross from the Barcelona forward and give Uruguay a seventh-minute lead.
The goal featured superb linkplay between the two forwards, a combination that would be Uruguay’s strongest weapon against an attack-minded team like France.
“There was a cross to the left, then a cross to the right — there is no scheme against that,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said of the goal.
“Their strikers were very strong; one was there, the other one came from behind. That was an incredible play, they have never scored like that before.”
It is his ability to power down the flanks or provide a defence-splitting pass to set up a fellow forward, that makes Cavani a big threat — and potentially such a big loss.
Add his finishing prowess, as was evident during his second goal against Portugal, and Cavani has the qualities to rival any top player in the world.
But the 31-year-old has always had to do something special to be the centre of attraction in his career, fitting himself into different positions for the La Celeste, either for long-serving Uruguay forward Diego Forlan, who forced him to the wings, or for Suarez.
It has not been any different at his club PSG either. With Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the attack, Cavani always had to play a secondary role.
When the Swede joined Manchester United, Cavani finally had the chance to prove his worth and did not disappoint. He finished the 2016-17 season with 47 club goals, only behind Lionel Messi in the leading leagues in Europe.
With Brazilian Neymar arriving from Barcelona the next season for a world record fee, the focus again shifted off Cavani, possibly explaining his early ugly public spat with Neymar over penalty-taking duties.
The goals have, however, not dried up and Cavani is now part of a feared attacking trio alongside Neymar and French striker Kylian Mbappe. Cavani has now overtaken Ibrahimovic as the club’s all-time top scorer.
Cavani was also the top scorer for Uruguay during their World Cup qualifying campaign with 10 goals and finished ahead of players such as Argentina’s Messi, who had seven, and Brazil’s Neymar, who had six.
With his strikes against Portugal, his tally in Russia reached three. All of Uruguay is hoping he has the chance to add more.