Goncalo Ramos justified the shock decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring a hat-trick on his full debut as Portugal beat Switzerland 6-1 on Tuesday to progress to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Ramos, 21, who started in place 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, which booked a showdown with Morocco on Saturday for a place in the last four in Qatar. Ronaldo, 37 and now without a club following his departure from Manchester United, made headlines throughout the tournament while appearing a shadow of himself.
Ronaldo, the only man to score in five World Cups, was left out against the Swiss by coach Fernando Santos after his angry reaction to his substitution in the final group game.
It was a bold decision to omit a player with a record 118 international goals and give a full debut to Ramos, the Benfica striker who had played just 33 minutes in three previous appearances.
But it took Ramos just 17 minutes to reward Santos’ confidence and achieve something Ronaldo has never done before: score in a World Cup knockout match.
Joao Felix carefully slammed into the feet of Ramos, who spun past Fabian Schaer and shot into the roof of the net past a stunned Yann Sommer.
Otavio, returning to Portugal’s midfield in their opening game from injury, shot straight at Sommer before Ramos did the same moments later.
Xherdan Shaqiri made a fingertip stop of Diogo Costa with a plunging free-kick from distance, but Portugal soon had their second.
Bruno Fernandes blasted in a corner kick and 39-year-old Pepe towered over the Swiss defense to head in powerfully.
Diogo Dalot hacked a Remo Freuler header off the line after Diogo Costa mishandled a cross, but against the irresistible Portugal, the Swiss simply had no answer.
Ramos scored his second from close range six minutes into the second half on a cross from Dalot down the right.
He then turned his back on playing in Guerreiro and retrieving just four minutes later as the Swiss defense was ruthlessly torn apart.
It was also Ramos who accidentally threw 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 excellent work from Felix, who casually reflected on Sommer with one of his final touches before making way for Ronaldo.
The introduction of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner caused the biggest roar of the evening. Ronaldo had the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out for offside.
Leao capped off a sensational performance in Portugal with a great stoppage-time curling attack.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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