How Portugal’s players reacted to Cristiano Ronaldo being benched from Switzerland’s win.
How Portugal players reacted to Cristiano Ronaldo being benched for Switzerland’s triumph.
Joao Felix, Pepe, and Goncalo Ramos were eager to play down any association between Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence and Portugal’s outstanding performance in the World Cup’s round of 16.
Ronaldo was shockingly benched by Fernando Santos for the match against Switzerland due to a streak of subpar performances and distracting behaviour.
In a 6-1 victory that seemed to demonstrate that Portugal are no longer dependent on their all-time leading scorer, 21-year-old Ramos entered the game and scored a hat-trick on his World Cup debut.
Ramos himself was the first to rally around Ronaldo after the match, saying: “He’s the captain, he’s the leader and we always look forward to playing side by side with him.”
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Another player Ronaldo’s absence appears to unleash was Felix, who did not get himself on the scoresheet despite a brilliant performance.
“It was a great game for the whole team,” Felix told RTP3. “We started well from the first minute. We played a complete game and when it’s like that it’s harder for someone to beat us.
“Whether Cristiano is there or not, the important thing is the team. The team also plays well when Ronaldo is there.”
Veteran defender Pepe concurred, and he quashed any rumours that Ronaldo was throwing any tantrums over the decision to drop him.
“He knows perfectly well that the most important thing is ‘us’,” Pepe said. “What happened today was the coach’s choice and must be respected.”
Pepe became the oldest person to ever score in a knockout stage game, making World Cup history for himself as well.
He rose to brilliantly head home a corner in the first half, although he was quick to praise hard effort on the training pitch.
”We’ve been working on it and in the first corner we were going to hit straight,” he said. “I was in the right place. The collective hard work paid off.”