Cristiano Ronaldo watched on from the bench as Goncalo Ramos made the most of his opportunity to start in Portugal's clash with Switzerland at the World Cup. Portugal coach Fernando Santos made the shock call to bench Ronaldo on Tuesday for the round of 16 match, won by Portugal 6-1 in a staggering statement to the rest if the world.
Santos handed a starting spot to Ramos, a 21-year-old forward who made his international debut just three weeks ago, with Ronaldo relegated to the bench. It came after Santos had criticised Ronaldo's reaction to being subbed off in Portugal's previous match.
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With Ronaldo watching on from the sidelines, Ramos stunned the football world in his first start at a World Cup with a scintillating hat-trick. 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. Ronaldo was seen expressionless on the big screen after Ramos' opener and received a loud cheer from the crowd. Ramos then put the result to bed for Portugal when he scored again in the 55th and 67th minutes as he toyed with the Switzerland defence, with Portugal going on to win 6-1.
It marked the first time Ronaldo didn't lead his team onto the field as the captain in Qatar, with Pepe taking the skipper's armband instead. The 39-year-old defender scored Portugal's second goal, with Ronaldo running off the bench to hug the veteran near one of the corners.
Ronaldo had earlier jogged onto the field for the pre-match warmup by himself - after the starters - and was with the substitutes kicking the ball around doing light drills. He was smiling when he returned to the locker room and paused for a photo with a female volunteer.
Cristiano Ronaldo in demoralising scenes at World Cup
In what is expected to be his last World Cup, Ronaldo finally came onto the field in the 73rd minute. His appearance sparked a massive eruption from spectators in the crowd.
A poll in Portugal had earlier showed that fans back home wanted Ronaldo dropped from the starting line-up. His form has dipped in recent months and he sensationally cut ties with Manchester United in the Premier League.
He then drew the ire of his coach with a petulant reaction to being taken off against South Korea in the final game of the group stage. "I didn't like it, not at all. I really didn't like it," Santos said Monday of Ronaldo's attitude. "We fixed that in-house and that's it."
Ramos' performance had the football world in a frenzy. England great Gary Linekar tweeted: "Well, if you’re going to take the place of Ronaldo, that’s the way you do it. What a goal from Ramos. What a call from Santos."
Ramos, who plays for Portuguese club Benfica, made his debut for Portugal last month in a warm-up game against Nigeria and scored his first international goal. He replaced Ronaldo late in the opening match against Ghana in Qatar, and again against Uruguay.
The 21-year-old has scored 21 goals this year for Benfica. Joao Cancelo, a fullback who started all three matches of the group stage, was also dropped from the starting lineup on Tuesday.
with Associated Press
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