On Gonçalo Ramos’ massive night time, focus remained on Ronaldo

AL DAAYEN, Qatar — Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t begin in Portugal’s resounding 6-1 victory over Switzerland within the spherical of 16 at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday. However that didn’t cease anyone from asking about him after the match.

Three out of the six questions Portuguese supervisor Fernando Santos acquired within the postgame press convention had been in regards to the 37-year-old striker who didn’t begin in a World Cup match for the primary time since 2006. Switzerland head coach Murat Yakin bought one, too.

Ronaldo has been the focal point all through this World Cup: from leaving Manchester United to experiences that he could signal with Al Nassr, a Saudi Arabian membership that may pay him a wage value greater than $200 million per 12 months, to cameras catching him complaining about being taken out of a group-stage recreation within the sixty fifth minute.

So why would Tuesday’s knockout spherical be any totally different? 

Hours earlier than kickoff, Santos made the daring transfer to start out 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos as an alternative of the legendary footballer. Ramos, who performs for Primeira Liga membership Benfica, had solely performed 33 minutes of worldwide competitors, however his lack of huge recreation expertise didn’t appear to matter as he scored a hat trick in his first-ever World Cup begin. He was named Man of the Match.

Portugal vs. Switzerland highlights

Portugal vs. Switzerland highlights

Portugal confronted off with Switzerland within the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Santos mentioned his resolution relating to Ronaldo was extra strategic than disciplinary. Monday, there was stress on the supervisor’s press convention when he instructed reporters that he “really didn’t like” Ronaldo’s response to being substituted within the sixty fifth minute of a 2-1 loss to South Korea within the crew’s closing group stage match. And so his resolution to not play him till the ultimate 25 minutes in a knockout match appeared there was drama within the locker room. Particularly provided that Ronaldo had began all however one World Cup recreation in his nationwide crew profession, a 2006 group stage match towards Mexico that he missed as a result of an damage.

“As I’ve said, I think those issues have been resolved,” Santos said firmly. “I’m repeating myself. That is completed and solved.

“It’s necessary to take a look at [Ronaldo’s] historical past. He’s probably the greatest gamers on the planet. He’s our captain. However I take into consideration this crew collectively … if we are able to enhance some issues, we’re on the best path [to keep advancing in the tournament], I’d say.”

In the course of the second half, followers at Lusail Stadium chanted “Ronaldo, Ronaldo” every couple of minutes. He eventually came in for Ramos in the 73rd minute to thunderous applause that was louder than any of the cheers for A Seleção’s six goals. Fans roared when he scored in the 84th minute, but the goal was called back for offside.

Was it difficult for Santos not to start Ronaldo in a knockout game? Would this be his role moving forward? Portugal is onto the quarterfinal now where an intriguing matchup with Cinderella team Morocco awaits on Saturday.

“That’s nonetheless one thing that needs to be outlined,” Santos said. “I’ve an in depth relationship with him and at all times have. I’ve recognized him since he was 19 and our relationship has solely grown.

“Ronaldo and I never misinterpret the human aspect with manager and player in a match. He will always be a very important player to have on this team.”

Ramos scores a hat trick!

Ramos scores a hat trick!

Gonçalo Ramos scores a wonderful hat trick for Portugal, cementing a 5-1 victory towards Switzerland.

Getting his first World Cup begin in a win-or-go-home recreation (he got here off the bench in Portugal’s first two matches) and scoring three dazzling targets was an enormous second for Ramos. So after all the primary query he bought after the sport was if he felt strain approaching as an alternative of Ronaldo and if his well-known teammate gave him any recommendation beforehand.

“Honestly, in our team, no one talked about it,” mentioned Ramos, who additionally famous that Ronaldo has at all times been one among his function fashions.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is our captain, and he did what he always does. He helped us and he encouraged us. Not just me, but all of my teammates.”

The query stays, although. What does Ramos’ extraordinary efficiency on the game’s grandest stage imply for an growing older legend who’s enjoying in his fifth and closing World Cup?

In backing up his assertion that benching Ronaldo was extra tactical than anything, Santos mentioned that “Cristiano is more fixed and stays in one area and plays more toward the box now.” Ramos, however, “has different characteristics,” Santos continued. “He’s dynamic in the way that he looks at his opportunities. Those were observations that stood out to me and that’s what he ended up showing.”

For all of the drama surrounding Ronaldo, he’s nonetheless beloved by followers worldwide and one of many largest names at this World Cup. Photographers had been extra targeted on him strolling to his spot on the bench quite than the beginning XI in the course of the nationwide anthems.

And though he hasn’t carried out on the stage of his famous person friends like Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, he’s nonetheless bigger than life at this match. 

And even when Ramos scores one other hat trick, the story will at all times be about Ronaldo.

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Laken Litman covers school soccer, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand wrote for Sports activities Illustrated, USA At this time and The Indianapolis Star. She is the writer of “Strong Like a Woman,” revealed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Observe her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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