Cristiano who?! Portugal winners, losers & ratings as Ronaldo replacement Ramos hits historic hat-trick in Switzerland rout
The noise was deafening. Rather than revelling in a stunning display from Portugal, the crowd at the Lusail Iconic Stadium were rather pathetically calling for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Luckily, Fernando Santos was having none of it. The Portugal coach had already benched his captain for his show of disrespect against South Korea, so he wasn't about to bow to public opinion while Ronaldo's replacement, Goncalo Ramos, was running riot.
The 21-year-old had already scored two goals, and created another, so there was no way Santos was taking him off. And just as well, too, as Ramos completed his hat-trick with a sublime finish to put the seal on a scintillating 6-1 demolition of Switzerland.
There were other fine goals, from Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao, and even a late cameo from Ronaldo. But even the legendary No.7 couldn't upstage Portugal's new striking sensation.
GOAL runs through all of the winners and losers from a night of high drama in Qatar...
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A clearly frustrated Ronaldo performed dreadfully during the group stage, culminating in him disrespecting Santos while leaving the field against South Korea. His relegation to the bench was wholly justified, both from a sporting and disciplinary perspective. But this was still a colossal call by the coach. This is Ronaldo we're talking about. He's one of the all-time greats. He's not just the Selecao skipper - he's been their talisman for well over a decade, and so often their saviour. Had this gone wrong, Santos would have been slated by not just Portugal's numerous Ronaldo supporters, but also the world's. However, Santos got it spot on. It wasn't just that Ramos scored a hat-trick, it was the fact that Portugal performed with far greater freedom, fluidity and potency without the international game's all-time record goalscorer. In ditching Ronaldo, Santos appears to have set his team free.
It should not get lost in all of the controversy caused by Santos' selection just how much pressure was placed upon the shoulders of Goncalo Ramos. At just 21 years of age, and on his first start for his country, in a World Cup last-16 tie, he was tasked with replacing Ronaldo. The Benfica striker had played just 33 minutes of international football going into this game, and yet he only needed a further 17 to show precisely why he had been picked. Given the angle, there appeared to be little chance of Ramos beating the recalled Yann Sommer from the left-hand side of the penalty area, yet the forward's shot was unleashed with such ferocity that the Swiss goalkeeper actually had no chance. His second goal was a neat near-post finish, while his third was a beautiful dinked finish. As he ran away to celebrate his treble, even Ramos looked astounded by his achievement. He had just become the first Portuguese player to hit a hat-trick in the World Cup knockout stage since Eusebio. On a night when it was made abundantly clear to even some of his staunchest supporters that Ronaldo's star is fading, another was born.
How is Pepe still doing this at 39 years of age? There were signs during the group stage that age might finally be catching up with the centre-back, little glimpses of weakness, particularly when faced with pacey players. However, he was head and shoulders above every other defender here, most notably when he rose to power home Portugal's second goal to become the oldest goalscorer in the knockout stages of a World Cup. Also worth noting that he has two more knockout stage goals than Ronaldo too... Pepe has always been a polarising figure. Calling him a master of the dark arts is putting it kindly. But love him or loathe him, it's impossible not to respect his ludicrous longevity.
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This isn't going well, isn't it? Ronaldo was meant to use this World Cup to reaffirm his greatness, to silence those who had questioned his character after forcing his way out of Manchester United in such an ugly and unprofessional manner. And yet here he was, sitting on the bench for 70 minutes, dropped for insubordination and inefficacy. It was the first time he'd been left out of a Portugal starting line-up at a major tournament since Euro 2008 – a remarkable 31-game streak ended in ignominious circumstances. And he can only have himself to blame. He's turned up in Qatar lacking match sharpness because of the disgraceful way in which he conducted himself at Old Trafford. Then, he gave Santos a very convenient excuse to drop him by stupidly expressing his dissatisfaction with a wholly justified substitution. Hard to see how the Portugal boss could even consider recalling Ronaldo for the quarters...
'Cristiano, we have come for you' read a banner unfurled before kick-off. And they had. They weren't really interested in seeing anyone else. For that reason, the second half descended into farce, with the Ronaldo fans whistling and booing Santos' refusal to bring on Ronaldo as early as possible. The coach was overseeing Portugal's first knockout stage win at World Cup since 2006 and yet he was having to endure a pantomime atmosphere. Ronaldo is clearly an idol to many but this was embarrassing. And yet entirely in keeping with this era of fandom. Against Korea, Ronaldo disrespected Santos. Here, his blind followers did likewise.
Morocco can defend. We know that for sure. They've conceded just one goal on their remarkable run to the quarter-finals, keeping clean sheets against Croatia and Belgium in the group stage, before then keeping Spain at bay for 120 minutes in the last 16. Yassine Bounou will take some beating. However, the Atlas Lions are going have a serious job on their hands containing a Portugal attack that has come to life thanks to Ronaldo's relegation to the bench. The Selecao were sensational here, with Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix buzzing about Ramos, and Bernardo Silva offering further creativity in behind. Throw in the twin threat of the full-backs, Diogo Dalot and Raphael Guerreiro, and you've got a lot of danger men to look after. Morocco really will be praying that every member of their first-choice backline is fit for Saturday's showdown.
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Portugal Ratings: Defence
Diogo Costa (6/10):
Wasn't given much to do and couldn't be blamed for the Swiss goal from Manuel Akanji.
Diogo Dalot (8/10):
Rewarded with another start after his assist against South Korea and repeated the feat here, teeing up Ramos for his second goal. Also excellent defensively, winning plenty of tackles.
Rolled back the years with a commanding display capped by a towering header that put Portugal two goals to the good.
Ruben Dias (7/10):
A unspectacular but solid showing from the Manchester City centre-back.
Raphael Guerreiro (8/10):
It was thought that the versatile Joao Cancelo might continue at left-back, but Guerreiro vindicated his inclusion with a scintillating display down the left-flank that featured a fantastic run and finish for Portugal's fourth, and an assist for Leao.
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William Carvalho (8/10):
Portugal look so much better with the Real Betis man protecting the back four than Ruben Neves, who was benched for this game. Used the ball brilliantly and did a great job sweeping up.
His return to full fitness is a boost for Portugal. Worked well in tandem with Carvalho.
Bernardo Silva (7/10):
Again, no goals or assists for the Man City man but a key link between the midfield and the attack.
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Bruno Fernandes (7/10):
Another assist for Bruno, who provided the cross for Pepe's goal, and another lively display. A class act.
Joao Felix (8/10):
The Atletico Madrid flop really is enjoying quite the renaissance in Qatar. Another livewire performance featuring two assists.
Goncalo Ramos (9/10):
What more can you say about the kid? Just an absolutely stunning display of finishing. Ronaldo-esque, one might say...
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Subs & Manager
Took over in midfield from Otavio in the 73rd minute.
Ricardo Horta (5/10):
Didn't get a sight of goal in his 20 minutes on the pitch.
Cristiano Ronaldo (5/10):
Did his best to get on the scoresheet and had the ball in the net at one point, but he was miles offside. More evidence of his timing being off at the moment.
Ruben Neves (N/A):
Replaced Bernardo Silva late on.
Rafael Leao (7/10):
Only came on for four minutes but once again showed his quality with a fantastic finish for his second goal of the tournament. Definitely ahead of Ronaldo in the pecking order now.
Fernando Santos (10/10):
Seriously, it couldn't have gone any better for him. The kid he picked to replace Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, while Guerreiro also netted after getting the nod ahead of Cancelo. Genius.