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.
'CAN'T BELIEVE IT': Spain savaged over 'horrible' drama at World Cup
'TOTALLY UNFAIR': Martin Tyler in nasty furore at FIFA World Cup
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.
Even on the bench, all eyes are still on Ronaldo 😮📸 pic.twitter.com/EdBVnTu6pV
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 6, 2022
The clamour of photographers looking to get a shot of Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench! 🤯
Say what you want about him but he will always be box office! 😬 pic.twitter.com/GxydEAssOo
— 90min (@90min_Football) December 6, 2022
Just look at how many photographers are taking pictures on Ronaldo on that Portugal bench...
He must be STEAMING 😂
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) December 6, 2022
Look how many photographers would rather photograph Ronaldo than the 22 players walking onto the pitch. pic.twitter.com/5xzutcWIFq
— Niall (@niallmoran_) December 6, 2022
Such a powerful picture! Cristiano isn't starting for Portugal tonight, he's on the bench and when the national anthems were going on more photographers had their lens on the bench than on the playing field.
The pull of Ronaldo is insane 😳 #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/vVr2jvhePH
— Cric Mania (@CricMania9) December 6, 2022
A picture of ronaldo with all those photographers will be iconic
— Liam🏴 (@liam_ccfc) December 6, 2022
Portugal advance to quarter-final after masterclass
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.
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
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.