Cristiano Ronaldo expressed his delight by running to Goncalo Ramos and then Pepe after the pair both scored the opening two goals in Portugal’s knockout tie against Switzerland.
The 37-year-old was dropped for Portugal’s last-16 clash with the Swiss at Lusail Stadium, with Ramos replacing him in the starting XI. It proved to be a memorable first World Cup start for the 21-year-old, who stepped up in his captain’s absence to score a wonderful opener.
Portugal started the game brightly and took the lead in the 19th minute through Ramos, whose left-footed effort from a tight angle flew into the back of the net. It was a terrific finish from the youngster, who has been in superb form for Benfica this season, netting 14 times in 21 games.
However, all the talk will be on Ronaldo after his replacement found the net with an excellent strike, putting the former Manchester United man under more scrutiny if Portugal qualify for the quarter-finals. But Ronaldo didn’t sulk after Ramos scored, instead running over to celebrate with his young teammate alongside the rest of the Portugal squad.
Ronaldo looked delighted for Ramos as he gave him a massive hug before walking back to the bench. Fernando Santos’ side continued to dominate proceedings and added a second goal on the half-hour mark through veteran Pepe, who powered a header into the top corner, sparking more delirium amongst the Portugal fans.
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Like the first goal, a pleased Ronaldo ran over to celebrate with his former Real Madrid teammate, before tapping him on the head and giving him a hug to congratulate him. Ronaldo was in happy spirits when he took his place on the bench despite coming out of the starting line-up for one of Portugal’s biggest World Cup games in recent history.
Ronaldo’s snub was the latest point of frustration for the player after he left Manchester United by mutual consent last month following his controversial interview with Piers Morgan. He slammed manager Erik ten Hag, the Glazers and a number of other issues surrounding the Red Devils, but Ronaldo’s international career could’ve taken a massive hit.
Before the game, former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong told ITV Sport: “At the World Cup, where you’ve got to the chance to go through to the next round, sometimes you’ve got to step up and be the bigger man. Be a role model the youngsters, a leader inside of the dressing room, regardless of your own situation. But it is really hard for him (Ronaldo). For us looking from the outside, I don’t think he can accept that he is not playing.”