Portugal had no regrets over dropping Cristiano Ronaldo as his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick in a superb 6-1 win over Switzerland in the World Cup last 16.
The fallout of Ronaldo’s reaction to his substitution in Portugal’s previous game dominated the build-up to the knock-out clash and his demotion ended a run of 31 games he had started for his country at tournament finals.
In his absence, his countrymen produced one of the performances of the tournament so far as Portugal reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2006, where Spain’s conquerers Morocco await.
Ramos, his replacement, was five years old when Ronaldo scored his first World Cup goal and needed only 17 minutes to open his own account with a thunderous effort which was past Yann Sommer before he could react.
Portugal cemented their advantage before the interval when 39-year-old Pepe became the second-oldest scorer in World Cup history from a corner, before Ramos ended the game as a contest with a poacher’s finish at the near post.
Even left-back Raphael Guerreiro got in on the act just before the hour, rifling home an inviting Ramos assist, before Manuel Akanji stabbed home a consolation which barely merited a celebration.
Ramos returned from provider to goalscorer with the first hat-trick of this World Cup, delicately chipping Sommer to emphatically vindicate his manager’s faith.
Ronaldo was finally introduced from the bench shortly after and though Portugal did add a sixth it was another youngster on the scoresheet rather than their elder statesman, with Rafael Leao curling exquisitely into the corner in added time.
More to follow…