Cristiano Ronaldo, demoted to joker, wrote of an “amazing day” following Portugal’s 6-1 victory over Switzerland in the World Cup Round of 16.
However, this time it was not the focus of the action, but Goncalo Ramos, who burst into his place. The striker from Benfica Lisbon became the winner of the match in the first World Cup starting from the trio, after the match he spoke of “a dream that will come true.”
Ramos does it like Klose
For Ramos, the call to the starting line-up came as a complete surprise, as it probably has in the entire football world. “I don’t think I would have even dreamed of starting in the playoffs,” said the youngster.
The 21-year-old striker showed no sign of initial difficulties with his enthusiasm, compound strength and brutal efficiency. Not only did Ramos score his first World Cup hat-trick, he also became the first professional since World Cup record goalscorer Miroslav Klose to score a hat-trick on his World Cup debut.
However, the brilliant idea didn’t entirely come out of nowhere. Ramos exploded at club level this season, topping the Portuguese league’s top scorer list with nine goals. The logical consequence was a debut for the senior national team shortly before the World Cup.
Ramos did not want to predict whether he would also play in the quarter-finals: “I don’t decide it, other people decide.”
Ronaldo is trying to keep up
Ronaldo endured his unfamiliar and unwelcome role as substitute with equanimity, even smirking here and there. After the end of the match, the regular captain, who was substituted only in the 74th minute, briefly embraced the match-winner Ramos, allowed himself to be cheered on by the fans and hastily disappeared into the dressing room.
Ronaldo then wrote on Instagram, “A great day for Portugal and a historic result.” Despite his personal disappointment, he had warm words for the younger generation. The selection has excellent talent and young players, one can only congratulate her on that.
Almost five years after winning his fifth and final Ballon d’Or, the agonizing demotion in favor of Ramos, 16 years his junior, has been Ronaldo’s temporary low point.
In Manchester United, he was first removed from the bench, and then kicked out of the club. It is difficult to look for a new club. It seems that only the Saudi club Al-Nasr has a serious interest, and Ronaldo himself denied the existence of an agreement.
In terms of sports, the world-class multiplayer footballer was not convincing in this latest round, and also quarreled with team boss Fernando Santos. The coach justified his decision to install the record scorer for the first time in a tournament match since 2008 with sporting considerations: “I choose the best players who fit my strategy.”
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Without Ronaldo, the Portuguese Seleçao were bursting with joy, looking liberated and scoring a well-deserved victory against the weak Swiss. In addition to Ramos, veteran Pepe also shone, with his header making him the oldest scorer in a World Cup knockout match and the second oldest in World Cup history at the age of 39 years and 283 days.
Left back Rafael Guerrero and substitute Rafael Leao added the other goals on a historic day for Portugal. Only in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups has there been a higher run of 16 victories.
In the first quarter-final since the 2006 World Cup, the Portuguese will meet Morocco on Saturday. Santos left open what role Ronaldo would play in this game. “We’ll have to see,” said the 68-year-old when asked if record goalscorer Ronaldo was about to start a new chapter in the national team.
“I have a close relationship with him,” said the team president. “But we are coaches and players. I told him he’s a very important player, he knows that.”
On that night at least, young Ramos stole the show from one of the best footballers of all time. The youngster did not want to hide the important role of Ronaldo even on the biggest day of his career so far. Ramos confirmed, “Cristiano did what he always does as a captain. He helped us, encouraged us, the whole team.”
Video – Two decades of Ronaldo in Portugal:
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