12/06 16:20 CST Ronaldo dropped, Ramos scores 3 for Portugal at World Cup
Ronaldo dropped, Ramos scores 3 for Portugal at World Cup
By STEVE DOUGLAS
AP Sports Writer
LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) --- A chant of "RONALDO! RONALDO!" swept around the biggest
stadium at the World Cup, followed by loud jeers when the fans realized their
idol wasn't coming onto the field.
Cristiano Ronaldo was, in fact, sitting in the dugout, looking glum and still
wearing a substitute's bib. And the guy who started instead of him on Tuesday
was about to complete a hat trick.
After Ronaldo was dropped from the starting lineup in a bold call by Portugal
coach Fernando Santos, Goncalo Ramos --- the superstar striker's unlikely
replacement --- made himself an instant star by leading the team to a 6-1 win
over Switzerland and into the World Cup quarterfinals.
Ramos, a 21-year-old forward who only made his Portugal debut last month,
demonstrated the kind of clinical finishing Ronaldo was once known for in
scoring the first goal in the 17th minute and adding others in the 51st and
"Not even in my wildest dreams did I think about being part of the starting
team for the knockout stage," said Ramos, who counts Ronaldo along with Robert
Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as his soccer idols.
It was around the hour mark that fans around the 89,000-seat Lusail Stadium
started to implore Santos to bring on the 37-year-old Ronaldo, and they got
their wish in the 72nd minute. Portugal had the game wrapped up by then, with
defenders Pepe and Raphael Guerreiro also having scored. Rafael Leao added
another goal in stoppage time.
After briefly celebrating with his teammates following the final whistle,
Ronaldo walked off the field on his own --- perhaps wondering where his career
goes from here. He is currently without a club after leaving Manchester United
midway through the World Cup and he might no longer be the starter for his
The rest of the Portugal team hung around to applaud the team's fans at one end
of the stadium. A quarterfinal match awaits against Morocco on Saturday and
Santos now has to decide whether to stick with Ramos or restore Ronaldo, the
top scorer in men's international soccer and one of the game's greatest ever
"We have to think about this team collectively now," Santos said, before
talking about Ronaldo. "I still consider he has a very important role in the
That might now be a substitute and an experienced head in the locker room.
Ronaldo was dropped a day after Santos expressed his unhappiness at the
striker's attitude after he was substituted against South Korea in the team's
final group game. After the Switzerland game, the coach said it was a strategic
decision, not a disciplinary one.
Ramos was a surprise replacement --- he had previously only made three
substitute appearances for Portugal --- and took his chance.
Ramos, who was only 2 years old when Ronaldo made his Portugal debut in 2003,
produced the first hat trick at this year's World Cup. He also did something
Ronaldo has never achieved --- score a knockout goal at soccer's biggest
Ramos drove a rising shot with his left foot inside Switzerland goalkeeper Yann
Sommer's near post for the first goal, flicked deftly through Sommer's legs
from close range for the second, and then ran through to chip the goalkeeper
for his third.
Ronaldo was seen smiling while he was warming up on the side of the field after
Ramos' second goal.
"Cristiano, as captain, did what he always does," Ramos said. "He helped us and
encouraged us, not only myself but my colleagues."
Ramos even had an assist, playing the ball through for Guerreiro to score the
Ronaldo had a couple of chances after coming on, and even thought he had scored
when he ran through and drove a low shot past Sommer. The goal was disallowed
for offside, much to the irritation of the fans --- Portuguese or from other
countries --- who had come to see him play.
Switzerland lost in the round of 16 for the third straight World Cup. The
country hasn't reached the quarterfinals since hosting the event in 1954.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and