What a change, what a triumph: Portugal voluntarily competed without Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time in the World Cup round of 16 on Tuesday evening (December 6th, 2022) – and his representative dismantled Switzerland almost single-handedly.
In the 6:1 (2:0) humiliation for the Swiss, who have been so refreshingly cheeky so far in this tournament, Portugal’s starting eleven debutant and Ronaldo representative Gonçalo Ramos became the hero of the evening with three goals – CR7 only came when the game was long overdue was decided. “It’s a dream come true, I still can’t believe it all”, said the youngster after the final whistle, visibly moved. That on Saturday (December 10, 2022, 4 p.m., live ticker at sportschau.de) in the quarterfinals against Morocco from the start again should be considered safe after this show.
“Strategic reasons – only for this game”
Before the kick-off, national coach Fernando Santos had expressly emphasized that his decision for the 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos and against Ronaldo was not because of his bad-tempered departure after being substituted against South Korea: the measure would alone “strategic reasons for this game”and of course he had to emphasize again when asked: “It’s nothing more. Cristiano is a professional and will give everything after his substitution.”
The 37-year-old sang along with the anthem with fervor, but the change was noticeable on the field: Without a clear fixed point in the middle, all the other offensive players could feel more movement, more changes of position, simply more freedom.
Full instep in the corner
The train to the goal was initially missing, but that changed abruptly. In the 17th minute, João Félix put the ball through to Gonçalo Ramos, who just hit it hard with the full instep from the half-left with an angle that wasn’t too good – the ball surprised Yann Sommer in the near corner and hit the corner at 106 kilometers per hour.
It was the Portuguese’s first shot on goal and confirmed Fernando Santos’ spectacular personal decision: the young Benfica striker had accumulated a full 33 minutes of international play before this round of 16, and he converted his first chance straight away. Incidentally, also to the visible joy of CR7, who made his way from his bench to the corner flag to celebrate together with his colleagues.
CR7 in the jubilee cluster
The goal now arranged the conditions on the lawn clearly in favor of the Portuguese. Otávio could have raised after a precise cross from Raphael Guerreiro and Gonçalo Ramos again. Switzerland were only threatened by a Xherdan Shaqiri free-kick, which Diogo Costa deflected just wide of the right post.
Cristiano Ronaldo jumps up – quite unusual with a substitute shirt
Then Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed to cheer in the grape again, this time even with an even older companion. After a near-own goal by Fabian Schär, Bruno Fernandes hit a corner kick sharply into the center, where the defensive legend Pepe, surrounded by Schär and Manuel Akanji, screwed himself up – and headed the ball in with all his will and power to make it 2-0 (33rd minute). ). Pepe became the oldest goalscorer in a knockout round at the World Cup at 39 years and 283 days. Only Cameroon’s Roger Milla was even older when scoring in the group stage.
Summer saves strong
Sommer had no chance in this scene, but was then able to excel again: In the 43rd minute, Gonçalo Ramos appeared free again in front of him, shot precisely against the direction of the keeper – but he just got his fingertips on the Ball and saved the 0:2 in the break.
It was actually time to regroup, change offensively, change direction – but nothing changed at all. Switzerland still didn’t find a plan forward, defended far too airy – and after five minutes the lid was on.
Dalot flanks, Gonçalo Ramos hits
It was amazing how much space the Swiss, who were still so aggressive against Serbia, left on the flank Diogo Dalot, whose right flank was again used by Gonçalo Ramos to make it 3-0 – through Sommer’s legs.
Only then did the Swiss coach Murat Yakin try to set the tone with a double substitution in the 54th minute, but seconds later the debacle took its course: Guerreiro marched unhindered towards Sommer and chased the ball under the bar to make it 4-0.
The fans demand Ronaldo
Switzerland came after a corner to 1: 4 through Akanji (58th), but the stadium had long since had another topic: “Ronaldoooooo” chants were always loud. However, it was not coach Fernando Santos who initially felt addressed, but Ronaldo representative Gonçalo Ramos – who scored the 5-1 in the 66th minute with a brilliant lob. But that wasn’t the end of the performance either: Rafael Leão flicked the ball into the goal in the 92nd minute to make it 6-1 after the summer had long since unnerved us.
Incidentally, Ronaldo was allowed to play from the 73rd minute and appeared twice more dangerously in the Swiss penalty area. But he was denied a goal – and the heroic role that evening had long since been assigned elsewhere.