MOSCOW — Off the top of his head, Cristiano Ronaldo scored yet another goal, set a European record and eliminated Morocco from the World Cup.
The Portugal forward headed in a fourth-minute cross from the right to give Portugal a 1-0 victory on Wednesday. It was his 85th goal for his country, the most for any European player in almost 150 years of international soccer.
“It was beautiful for me,” Ronaldo said after being voted the man of the match for the second straight game.
Ronaldo celebrated his goal by pointing at his chest during a trademark run and soaring leap toward the corner flag at the Luzhniki Stadium.
The goal moved the 33-year-old Ronaldo ahead of Ferenc Puskas, another Real Madrid great who scored his last goal for Hungary in 1956. He is alone in second place worldwide behind Ali Daei’s 109 goals for Iran.
“He has a great coach,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said through a translator, laughing when asked about Ronaldo. “He’s like a port wine. He knows how to refine his capacity and age at his best.”
Ronaldo’s four goals top the individual scoring chart at this year’s World Cup. Buoyed by his hat trick in a 3-3 draw against Spain on Friday, including a spectacular free kick late in the game, Ronaldo scored against Morocco with his first meaningful touch of the match.
He was too strong for marker Manuel Da Costa and found space in the goalmouth to meet Joao Moutinho’s cross following a short corner.
Ronaldo had two more free kick chances, each from less than 20 yards (meters). But both were blocked by a solid wall of defenders as the Portuguese ground out a result from an often poor display, much like it did two years ago on its run to the European Championship title.
Uruguay 1, Saudi Arabia 0
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — With a single goal, Luis Suarez settled the fate of four teams in the group stage of the World Cup.
The controversial striker, who was making his 100th appearance in his national team’s light blue, scored Wednesday to give Uruguay a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia and a spot in the round of 16.
The result, though, had a domino effect in Group A. It also put host Russia into the next round while eliminating both Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the same time.
Suarez, who was kicked out of the last World Cup for biting an opponent during a match, knocked in a corner kick from Carlos Sanchez in the 23rd minute for his 52nd goal for his country in that century of matches.
“We are more than proud because we’ve reached the knockout stage at three successive World Cups. It’s a beautiful moment and we want to enjoy it,” Suarez said. “We still haven’t hit our stride so we need to tweak some things.”
Uruguay and Russia both have six points from their opening two matches, putting them into the round of 16 with a match to go. They will face each other on Monday in Samara with first place in Group A on the line.
Spain 1, Iran 0
KAZAN, Russia — Patience is a virtue, and Spain showed plenty of it to overcome a tough challenge from Iran at the World Cup.
During a frustrating evening at the Kazan Arena when the 2010 champions struggled to break through the stubborn Iranian defense, Diego Costa scored on a deflection for a 1-0 win on Wednesday.
Costa scored in the 54th minute after being set up by Andres Iniesta. The powerful striker turned in the area and took a shot that deflected off Ramin Rezeian before bouncing back onto Costa’s knee and into the net.
It was far from a beautiful win, but the goal was enough to make Spain coach Fernando Hierro smile.
“We have four points,” Hierro said. “We were happier after the match against Portugal, but we only had one point.”
Spain and Portugal lead Group B with four points each following their 3-3 draw and 1-0 victories. Iran has three points.
SOCHI, Russia — Brazil is making sure everyone knows Neymar is perfectly fit at the World Cup
A day after he limped out of training and raised further doubts about his physical condition in Russia, the Brazilian soccer federation was quick to tell the world the team’s biggest star was just fine.
Brazil had a closed practice session Wednesday, two days before its game against Costa Rica in St. Petersburg, but the federation posted photos and a video of Neymar in action in training with the rest of the squad.
“Brazil practicing and Neymar participating normally in the team’s activity,” the federation said in a Twitter post.
One of the photos showed the playmaker touching the ball with his injured right ankle.
“Take a look at Neymar practicing in Sochi!” read the post linking to the video which showed the playmaker training without any sign of a limp.
The images showed him exchanging passes and making challenges. In a longer version of the video sent to journalists, Neymar took free kicks.