World Cup 2022: Ronaldo storms off after Portugal rout, Morocco knocks out ‘pathetic’ Spain

Cristiano Ronaldo played the smiling, happy teammate for 90 minutes — but every man has his limits.

And when the final whistle was blown on Portugal’s 6-1 rout of Switzerland on Wednesday morning, world football’s biggest star appeared to snap as he left his celebrating teammates and stormed off the pitch.

It was the headline moment of the final matches in the round of 16. Earlier, Morocco produced a monster upset by eliminating Spain, which failed to score not only in 120 minutes of play, but also an entire penalty shootout.

It left the World Cup quarterfinal match-ups as follows: Croatia v Brazil, Netherlands v Argentina, Morocco v Portugal, England v France.

8.30am — Ronaldo walks off without teammates

Cristiano Ronaldo’s relationship with the Portugal team appears to be at breaking point after he was kept on the bench for 73 minutes against Switzerland.

The 37-year-old was axed from the starting team after taking a public swipe at coach Fernando Santos in their previous match.

He looked unhappy on the bench and he showed his feelings after the full time whistle when he was seen exiting the stadium while his teammates celebrated with fans.

Salt was rubbed into Ronaldo’s wound when he was denied a goal for off-side late in the game.

SBS commentator Criag Foster said Santos had likely cost Ronaldo a history-making ninth World Cup goal. A goal against Switzerland would have been his first goal in the knockout stages of the World Cup.

Foster said with a grin that Santos’ tactical substitutions made it harder for Ronaldo to get on the scoresheet.

“Credit to Santos. He’s done an amazing job,” Foster said on SBS.

“It’s a huge call. I think it was reasonably obvious to everyone, including most of Portugal, that he (Ronaldo) just wasn’t contributing as much. What Ronaldo has to give now at club and national level is off the bench. When the third goal from Ramos went in, you know, we were laughing here because I think that was like the 67th minute and normally they make the (substitution) changes around 60 minutes, right, almost automatically.

“Ramos scored at 67 and he brings him (Ronaldo) on at 74. We were saying, no, he’s going to be so upset. Because that chance was the one that he wanted. Because the game was still open. They’re still pushing. He would have known, get me on, get me on. We’re creating chances.

“Ramos scores that and goes off and he (Ronaldo) doesn’t get a decent chance. Then he (Santos) took off Joao Felix. He’s the guy who was killing everyone. In the end Santos killed his (Ronaldo’s) chances of getting one.”

Santos said his decision to leave Ronaldo out had been “strategic and nothing more.”

Santos had expressed his unhappiness with Ronaldo’s reaction to being suspended in the final group stage game against South Korea but he said that matter had no impact.

“I said that it was closed and it was closed. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world playing professionally and as a captain … so we have to just think about this team collectively,” he said.

Asked whether it was the most difficult decision of his career to leave out Ronaldo, Santos said: “I have a very close relationship I always have, known him since he was 19 at Sporting, and then for years here in the national squad,” he said.

“Ronaldo and I never confuse the human and personal aspect with the coach and player relationship. He is a very important player to have in the team.”

7.45am – Ronaldo replacement scores brilliant hat-trick

Goncalo Ramos justified the shock decision to drop Ronaldo by scoring a hat-trick on his full debut as Portugal demolished Switzerland to power into the World Cup quarter-finals.

The 21-year-old Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958.

Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target for a rampant Portugal, who booked a showdown with Morocco for a place in the last four in Qatar.

Ronaldo, 37 and now without a club after his departure from Manchester United, has hogged the headlines during the tournament while looking a shadow of his former self.

The only man to score at five World Cups, Ronaldo was left out by coach Fernando Santos against the Swiss following his angry response to being substituted in the last group game.

It was a bold call to omit a player with a record 118 international goals in favour of giving a full debut to Ramos, the Benfica striker who had played just 33 minutes across three previous appearances.

But it took just 17 minutes for Ramos to reward Santos’ faith, and to achieve something Ronaldo has never done — score in a World Cup knockout game.

Joao Felix clipped delicately into the feet of Ramos, who quickly swivelled past Fabian Schaer and rifled into the roof of the net past a stunned Yann Sommer.

Otavio, who returned to the Portugal midfield after injury in their opening match, shot straight at Sommer before Ramos did likewise moments later.

Xherdan Shaqiri drew a fingertip stop from Diogo Costa with a dipping free-kick from distance, but Portugal soon had their second.

Bruno Fernandes whipped in a corner and the 39-year-old Pepe towered above the Swiss defence to powerfully head home.

Diogo Dalot hacked Remo Freuler’s header off the line after Diogo Costa failed to properly deal with a cross, but the Swiss simply had no answers against an irresistible Portugal.

Ramos turned in his second from close range six minutes into the second half from Dalot’s cross down the right.

He then turned provider by playing in Guerreiro to lash in another just four minutes later as the Swiss defence was ruthlessly ripped apart.

It was also Ramos who inadvertently glanced a corner towards Manuel Akanji at the far post as the Manchester City centre-back pulled one back for Switzerland.

Ramos completed his treble after more outstanding work from Felix, nonchalantly dinking over Sommer with one of his final touches before making way for Ronaldo.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s introduction elicited the biggest roar of the night. Ronaldo did have the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for a clear off-side.

Leao capped off a sensational Portugal performance with a terrific curling strike in stoppage time.

Ramos was asked how the dressing room — and Ronaldo — had reacted to the surprise team selection from Santos.

“Honestly no one in the team talked about it. Cristiano, as captain did what he does, he helped, he talked to us, not only to myself but to my teammates,” he said.

5am — Spain crumbles in ‘pathetic’ penalty shootout

Portugal might have been expecting to face their neighbours Spain in the last eight but Morocco stunned Luis Enrique’s side in a penalty shootout to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

After 120 minutes without a goal at Education City Stadium, Spain failed to score a single spot kick as Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou saved two and Pablo Sarabia hit the post.

The Spanish spot kicks were described as “absolutely pathetic” by one observer.

That left the Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi to settle the tie with a nerveless chipped kick to drive the predominantly Moroccan crowd wild.

Morocco are just the fourth African team to reach the last eight of a World Cup after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

Spain, the 2010 World Cup winners, failed to break down the athletic Moroccan side, with Bounou making a fine save from Dani Olmo’s free-kick in one of the best chances of normal time.

In extra-time, Walid Cheddira could have won the game for Morocco without the gut-wrenching shootout, but as he burst clear in the Spanish area, his shot was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Unai Simon.

In the inquest to a painful defeat, Spain will wonder how Paris Saint-Germain pair Sarabia and Carlos Soler, and Barcelona veteran Sergio Busquets, all failed to score in a shootout that Morocco won 3-0.

“It was a pity, it was decided on penalties in the most cruel way,” Busquets said.

“The penalties cost us but I am proud of my team,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

“I take all the responsibility because I chose the first three takers and the players decided the rest — we didn’t get to the fourth.”

Morocco’s penalty hero Bounou said he had benefited from “a little bit of intuition, a little bit of luck” and said the team had to remain focused despite their success.

“When you live moments like this, sometimes it’s hard to realise it. We will try to avoid the noise around us, stay focused on ourselves, on our job, our recovery,” he said.

The Moroccan celebrations spread across Doha, where police sealed off the Souq Wafiq in the centre of the capital after thousands of fans gathered to bang drums and blow horns.

Morocco could face punishment from FIFA after their players unfurled a Palestinian flag during their on-pitch celebrations.

The world football body’s regulations prohibit the display of flags and banners deemed to be of a “political, offensive and/or discriminatory nature”.

— with AFP

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