Ogden: Portugal means more than Cristiano Ronaldo (1:46)

Mark gives his analysis on Portugal's 2-0 win over Uruguay in the group stage of the World Cup. 1:45

7:00 AM ET

A year-and-a-half is a long time in football for Bruno Fernandes.

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The Manchester United player was dropped for the European Championship round-of-16 tie against Belgium due to his poor play during the group stage. Portugal was defeated by a single goal and went out.

The team is getting ready for a knockout game at a major tournament, against Switzerland, at Lusail Stadium. This time, it's not up for debate. He scored two goals and recorded two assists in the group stage, but was rested for the final game against South Korea to make sure he was ready for the tougher tests to come.

Despite being accused of not being able to make Portugal add up to their impressive parts, Fernandes is doing his part. The squad with talents like Joao Felix, Ruben Dias, and Joao Cancelo heads into the knockout phase as something of an enigma.

The Portuguese coach said after a 4-2 defeat to Germany in the group stage that Fernandes wasn't playing. Despite scoring 53 goals in 146 games since joining United in a deal worth up to 80 million, there have been questions regarding his tendency to give the ball away.

He surrendered the ball 34 times in United's loss to Istanbul Basaksehir in the 2020 European Championship. He gave the ball away 17 times in a game against Wolves, but this time it was his pass that led to Marcus Rashford's winner.

Bruno Fernandes has been directly involved in four of Portugal's six goals at the World Cup so far. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

To get the best out of him, Solskjaer insisted, you have to take the good with the bad.

According to Solskjaer, he is a player who impacts results. Any Manchester United player should be brave enough to take risks, because he creates chances, scores goals and takes risks. The boy is brave. He can see it. It's not possible to take that away from Bruno.

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It was decided by United that the asking price for a player who conceded a lot of possession was too high for an attacking player.

In the summer, Solskjaer said he wouldn't change his game, despite working to improve his decision-making.

He said that when he thinks he has to keep the ball, he tries to pass it to someone else. "Obviously when it goes wrong, I know that shouldn't be the case, but sometimes you have only a few seconds to think and make the pass, so it's not that much time to think."

Usually given a central role at United, he has been used on the right side of a front three at the World Cup. Fernandes is being asked to impact results. It was Fernandes who created two goals in two minutes, the first with a delicious pass for Felix and the second for Rafael, when Portugal were down to their last chance. He scored the first with a clipped cross into the penalty area which he couldn't connect with and then scored a penalty himself after he darted into the box.

England and Spain both scored more than Portugal's six goals in the group stage. If Portugal are going to become genuine challengers in the World Cup, it will be down to players like Fernandes who are quietly going about their work.

The World Cup is being seen as the end of an era in Portugal, with the coach likely to leave after eight years and the star player playing in his fifth and final tournament. Nobody knows what to expect when Switzerland and Spain meet in the second round. There has been only one constant so far. They will need to carry on if they go out on a high.