Ramos scores hat-trick in big Portugal win
LUSAIL, Qatar (AP):
A chant of "RONALDO! RONALDO!" swept around the biggest stadium at the World Cup, followed by loud jeers when the fans realised their idol wasn't coming on to the field.
Cristiano Ronaldo was, in fact, sitting in the Portugal dugout, looking glum and still wearing a substitute's bib. And the guy who started instead of him yesterday was about to complete a hat-trick.
After Ronaldo was dropped from the starting line-up 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 for which Ronaldo was once known in scoring the first goal in the 17th minute and adding others in the 51st and 67th.
No player had scored a hat-trick in his first World Cup start since Germany striker Miroslav Klose in 2002.
"Not even in my wildest dreams did I think about being part of the starting team for the knockout stage," said Ramos, an unheralded striker who plays for Benfica and counts Ronaldo as his football idol along with Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It was around the hour mark that fans throughout 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. Switzerland's only goal came in the 57th minute when Manuel Akanji tapped in at the far post after a corner kick.
Ronaldo didn't score -- he still hasn't in the knockout stage in any of his five World Cups -- and after briefly celebrating with his teammates following the final whistle, he 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 country.
The rest of the Portugal team hung around to applaud its 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 football and one of the game's greatest ever players.