Following his side’s win over Switzerland in their round of 16 FIFA World Cup match, Portugal manager Fernando Santos said that omitting star striker Cristiano Ronaldo from the starting team was a “game strategy”.
A hat-trick by 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos and strikes from Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao helped Portugal advance to the quarterfinals of the ongoing FIFA World Cup as they thrashed Switzerland 6-1 at Lusail, Qatar on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after the win, Santos was quoted as saying by Goal.com: “I already explained it (the situation surrounding Ronaldo being dropped), I would not explain it again. They are different players. It was game strategy, all the players are different, I also launched Dalot, Raphael, however Cancelo is also a fabulous player. It was what I thought that we would need for this match against Switzerland.”
“There is no problem between Fernando Santos and the captain of the national team (Ronaldo), we’ve been friends for many years. Players make decisions. Things do not affect us. I already explained, that part was completely resolved and he set a great example of a great captain,” he added.
Joao Felix made the first attempt at attack from Portugal’s side, passing to Bruno Fernandes at the edge of the Swiss box but the latter could not control the ball.
In the fifth minute, the Swiss forward Breel Embolo latched onto a headed pass, and went past two defenders but his shot was deflected by Pepe.
The match started slow, with only one shot at goal by the Swiss in the first 13-14 minutes.
In the 17th minute, it was Portugal who got the early lead. Goncalo Ramos, the man who had replaced Ronaldo, came through with a fiery near-post drive, which ended up finding the net despite the acuteness of the angle. Ramos made good use of the pass received from Joao Felix.
In the 25th minute, there was some concern for Switzerland as defender Fabian Schar was down on the ground and received some treatment.
Embolo won a free kick for Switzerland in the 29th minute. Shaqiri took the free kick and whipped a fine effort that went up and over the Portuguese wall, looked to be heading onto the post but Portugal keeper Costa took no chances and collected the ball.
In the 33rd minute, Pepe doubled the lead for Portugal. A brilliant header helped him score and become the oldest scorer at World Cup knockout stages.
In the 35th minute, Felix was involved in another scoring opportunity for Portugal but fumbled it.
Portugal continued to dominate proceedings. To make things worse, the referee gave a yellow card to Swiss player Fabian Schar for a late foul on Felix.
Four additional minutes of stoppage time were added, with neither side taking advantage.
At half-time, the scoreline read 2-0 in favour of Portugal, who also dominated ball possession with 53 per cent as compared to the Swiss’ 47 per cent. Portugal had six shots on target while Switzerland took four.
At the resumption of the match, Portugal earned a corner in the 49th minute, but Swiss defender Ricardo Rodriguez prevented the Portuguese from adding the third.
Ramos continued his dream run in the match as in the 51st minute, Diogo Dalot drilled the ball into the near post and Ramos fired it through Yann Sommer’s legs to make it 3-0. He scored a brace.
Pepe and Felix made some more chances for Portugal, but it was Raphael Guerreiro in the 56th minute who made full use of space left by Swiss right-back Fernandes to add another goal to Switzerland’s piling miseries.
In the 55th minute, Switzerland made two substitutes. On came Zakaria and Seferovic for Sow and Freuler.
Switzerland opened their account in the 58th minute with the help of Manuel Akanji, who made the scoreline read 4-1. But there was clearly a lot left to be done.
In the 59th minute, Switzerland’s Eray Comert was booked for committing a foul.
The most notable moment of the game came in the 67th minute, when Ramos’ brilliant finish sent the ball past Sommer to not only make it 5-1 in favour of Portugal, but also bring up his hat-trick, the very first in the 2022 edition of the tournament.
In the 72nd minute, Portugal made three changes as Ronaldo, Vitinha and Horta replaced hat-trick hero Ramos, Otavio and Felix. Four minutes into his arrival, Ronaldo took a free kick but missed an opportunity to score.
Embolo attempted to score for the Swiss in the 80th minute but failed.
In the 84th minute, Ronaldo drove the ball past Sommer for a goal, but out came the offside flag denying the star his moment in the game.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Rafael Leao came through with a stunning curl over Sommer’s head to make it 6-1.
Portugal qualified for the quarterfinal, with the scoreline reading 6-1 in their favour at full-time. Switzerland became more dominant in terms of ball possession in the second half, ending with overall figures of around 52 per cent while Portugal took the rest of it. Portugal took 14 shots at their target, of which nine were on target. The Swiss took 10 shots at goal out of which three were on target. (ANI)