Ronaldo dropped, Ramos scores 3 for Portugal at World Cup

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — A chant of “RONALDO! RONALDO!” swept around the biggest stadium in the world cup, followed by big jokes when the fans realized that their idol was not coming to the stadium.

Cristiano Ronaldo was, in fact, sitting in the Portugal dugout, looking sour and still wearing a substitute’s bib. And the man who started in his place on Tuesday would complete a hat trick.

After Ronaldo was dropped from the starting line-up in a brave call by Portugal coach Fernando Santos, Goncalo Ramos — the superstar forward’s unlikely replacement — made himself an instant star by leading the team to a 6-1 victory over Switzerland and in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. .

Ramos, a 21-year-old striker who only made his debut in Portugal last month, showed the kind of clinical finishing that Ronaldo was known for when he scored the first goal in the 17th minute and added more in the 51st. and the 67th.

No player had scored a hat trick on his first World Cup start since Germany striker Miroslav Klose in 2002.

“Not even in my wildest dreams did I think I would be part of the starting team for the knockout phase,” said Ramos, an uncapped forward who plays for Benfica and counts Ronaldo as his footballing idol alongside with Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

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It was around the hour mark that fans throughout the 89,000-seat Lusail Stadium began to plead with Santos to bring on the 37-year-old Ronaldo, and they got their wish in the 72nd minute. Portugal had the game for the day, with defenders Pepe and Raphael Guerreiro also scoring. Rafael Leao added another goal in stoppage time.

Ronaldo didn’t score — he hasn’t reached the knockout stage in any of his five World Cups — and after celebrating briefly with his teammates after the final whistle, he walked off the field alone, perhaps wondering where does his career go from here.

He is currently without a club after leaving Manchester United midway through the World Cup, and may no longer be a starter for his country.

The rest of the Portugal team applauded their supporters at one end of the pitch. A quarter-final match against Morocco awaits on Saturday and Santos must now decide whether to stick with Ramos or restore Ronaldo, the top scorer in international men’s football and one of the best players in the game. that ever happened.

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Santos said it was a strategic decision to drop Ronaldo and not a disciplinary one, after expressing displeasure during his pre-match news conference on Monday about the forward’s attitude after being substituted against South Korea in the team’s final group game.

“What we have to do is think about this team collectively,” Santos said, before talking about Ronaldo. “I will always consider him a very important player to have in the team.”

That can now be a replacement and an experienced head in the locker room rather than a starter.

Ramos was a surprise substitute — he had previously only made three substitute appearances for Portugal — and took his chance.

Ramos, who was just two years old when Ronaldo made his Portugal debut in 2003, scored the first hat trick at this year’s World Cup.

He guided a rising left-footed shot into the near post of Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer for the first goal, skilfully flicked through Sommer’s legs from close range for the second, and then raced to chipped past the goalkeeper for his third.

Ronaldo was seen smiling as he warmed up on the side of the pitch after Ramos’ second goal.

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“Cristiano, as our captain, did what he always does,” Ramos said. “It helped and encouraged, not only myself but my colleagues.”

Ramos even had an assist, playing the ball through Guerreiro to score the fourth goal.

Ronaldo was alive when he entered and even thought he scored when he ran and drove a shot into the low left after Sommer. The goal was ruled out for offside, much to the irritation of the fans — Portuguese or from other countries — who had come to see him play.

Switzerland’s only goal came in the 57th minute when Manuel Akanji hit the far post after a corner.

LONG WAIT

Switzerland lost in the round of 16 for the third consecutive World Cup. The country has not reached the quarter-finals since hosting the event in 1954.

THE MOST SCOLER

Pepe took over the captaincy from Ronaldo and became the oldest player to score in the knockout stage at the World Cup, aged 39 years, 283 days.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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