Dec. 6, 2022, 4:05 p.m. ET
Dec. 6, 2022, 4:05 p.m. ETCredit…Michael Steele/Getty Images
LUSAIL, Qatar — By the fourth goal, even Cristiano Ronaldo, standing and clapping in front of the Portugal bench, couldn’t complain. By the fifth, he could only offer a wry smile. Portugal was within the quarterfinals of the World Cup, and for a day even he knew that was a story larger than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo doesn’t step out of the highlight easily, and at 37 and newly unemployed he has desperately desired to make his mark at what is sort of actually his final World Cup. His performances within the group stage, though, had not matched his substantial legend, and so forth Tuesday night his coach, Fernando Santos, somewhat ruthlessly turned the page.
Ronaldo was dropped from Portugal’s lineup for its game against Switzerland. Gonçalo Ramos, a 21-year-old striker from the Portuguese team Benfica, got the nod as a substitute, and the unenviable job of replacing probably the most prolific scorer in his country’s history. In a bit greater than an hour, Ramos then achieved a good more remarkable feat:
He had a whole nation, and a whole World Cup, wondering why he hadn’t been starting all along.
Making his first start for his country, Ramos scored a 67-minute hat trick to power Portugal to a 6-1 victory over Switzerland, and a date with surprising Morocco within the quarterfinals on Saturday.
The primary had probably been the very best of the bunch: a fast turn and a shot fired so hard into the roof of the online that it passed goalkeeper Yann Sommer so fast he couldn’t lift his hands. Or perhaps he didn’t need to.
His second got here six minutes after halftime, off a pointy low pass from Rúben Dias, and his third about quarter-hour later, placed on a tee for him on the dead run by João Felix.
Pepe, Raphaël Guerreiro and Rafael Leão added to Portgual’s haul, but there will likely be little talk beyond what Ramos did, and what Ronaldo didn’t.
Because the clock ticked past the hour mark, and Switzerland valiantly scrambled in a goal to chop the deficit to 4-1, the fans called for Portugal’s victory cigar. “Ro-nall-do! Ro-nall-do!” they chanted again and again.
Santos, annoyed on the lost shutout and the lax defending that had allowed it, tuned it out as he prowled the grass in front of the dugout. He shouted. He pointed. He scowled. He didn’t, nonetheless, summon Ronaldo.
When Ramos got his third goal, though, and Portugal’s fifth, the old coach gave in to the group and the sentiment and to the story line. Ronaldo was told to get his jersey on, to prepare. With a skinny smile, he strode forward, accepted the captain’s armband from Pepe, stepped across the road and bathed within the adoration.
The job, by then, was done. Portugal had won. It now has at the very least another to play. It might do it with its most famous striker on the bench, and its best one on the sector.
And nobody, for now, not even Cristiano Ronaldo, can complain.