Ronaldo Benched, Ramos The New Star Rises

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Credit: Chaos Soccer Gear/ Unsplash

With a convincing 6-1 victory over Switzerland, Portugal secured their spot in the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 16 years despite Fernando Santos’ decision to sideline Cristiano Ronaldo, as reported by ESPN.

Only a consolation

Goncalo Ramos, a 21-year-old substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo, more than justified his decision by scoring three goals, in addition to goals from veteran defender Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro, and substitute Rafael Leao. Switzerland’s goal was scored by Manuel Akanji, however, it was only a consolation.

Portugal’s victory sets up a matchup with Morocco in the quarterfinals, and after such a convincing victory in the last 16, they will fancy their chances of making it to the semifinals for the first time since 2006. Morocco defeated Spain on penalties earlier on Tuesday.

Most unexpected 

With his team selection, Portugal manager Fernando Santos made two significant choices, and the outcome couldn’t have been better. The substitution of Ramos for Cristiano Ronaldo was undoubtedly the most unexpected; the latter had played just 33 minutes of international football prior to kickoff. However, Ramos, a striker for Benfica, rewarded his coach’s faith with three goals, the first of which was a shot fired into the top corner from a tight angle that caused a moment of stunned silence in the stadium before Portugal fans realised it had been successful.

International debut

In the clamour around Ronaldo, Santos also chose Diogo Dalot as right-back and Guerreiro on the left, benching Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo. As if Ramos, who was only two when Ronaldo made his international debut, hadn’t done enough to support Santos’ leadership, Dalot assisted Ramos on Portugal’s third goal before Guerreiro scored the team’s fourth.

In Ronaldo’s absence, Portugal’s offensive performance looked more fluid and free-flowing, and it may have given Portugal a real chance to win the championship. As is customary for World Cup champions, Portugal’s second goal was scored by the 39-year-old Pepe, who most likely wouldn’t have been been on the field if Danilo Pereira hadn’t sustained a rib injury in the opening match against Ghana.

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Source: ESPN

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