Cristiano Ronaldo's 'iconic' photo sends World Cup into meltdown

Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured left) being photographed on the bench and (pictured right) reacting on the sideline.
Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured left) was the centre of attention after he was benched in Portugal's round of 16 World Cup match. (Getty Images)

Portugal coach Fernando Santos made the huge call to sensationally drop Cristiano Ronaldo for the nation's round of 16 clash and the images from the bench have sent the World Cup wild. Santos made one of the biggest decisions of his career to bench captain Ronaldo ahead of their knockout match against Switzerland and it paid dividends.

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Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo and the 21-year-old justified his coach's faith in him after becoming the first player to score a hat trick at the Qatar World Cup. Portugal put in one of the most clinical performances in their history to win 6-1. It's the first time Portugal have made the World Cup quarter-final since 2006.

While Portugal fans had eyes on the pitch, the cameras in Lusail Stadium were directed at Ronaldo who was sitting on the bench from the start. And one aerial image during the national anthem showed the extent of attention on Ronaldo with all cameras turned to the icon.

Football fans were quick to label the image iconic with Ronaldo playing in his final World Cup campaign.

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Football fans were stunned when news trickled through that Santos had handed a starting spot to Ramos, a 21-year-old forward who made his international debut just three weeks ago. The news came after Santos had criticised Ronaldo's reaction to being subbed off in Portugal's previous match.

And Ramos grabbed his chance in the staring XI with the first hat trick of the World Cup. Ramos scored his first goal with just his fourth touch of the game in the 17th minute to give Portugal a 1-0 lead.

It meant Ramos had scored more goals in the World Cup knockout stages after just 17 minutes than Ronaldo had in 514 minutes throughout the competition's knockout rounds.

Press members taking photos of Ronaldo at the FIFA World Cup.
Press members taking photos of Ronaldo at the FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ramos then completed his fairytale start and put the result to bed for Portugal when he scored again in the 55th and 67th minute.

Veteran defender Pepe took the captain's armband in the absence of Ronaldo and scored one of his team's goals. He then handed the armband to Ronaldo when the 37-year-old made an appearance from the bench in the final moments.

Portugal will now take on Morocco in the quarter-final after the African nation stunned Spain. After 120 minutes the sides couldn't be separated. However, Moroccan goalkeeper Bono made two saves crucial saves, before Achraf Hakimi scored a Panenka to send the nation in the quarter-final.

with Associated Press

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