Portugal had no regrets over dropping Cristiano Ronaldo as his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick in a superb 6-1 win over Switzerland in the World Cup last 16.
The fallout of Ronaldo’s reaction to his substitution in Portugal’s previous game dominated the build-up to the knock-out clash and his demotion ended a run of 31 games he had started for his country at tournament finals.
His countrymen shook off any drama around his absence with one of the performances of the tournament so far as Portugal reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2006, where Spain’s conquerers Morocco await.
Ramos, his replacement, was five years old when Ronaldo scored his first World Cup goal and needed only 17 minutes to open his own account with a thunderous effort which was past Yann Sommer before he could react.
Portugal cemented their advantage before the interval when 39-year-old Pepe became the second-oldest scorer in World Cup history from a corner, before Ramos ended the game as a contest with a poacher’s finish at the near post.
Even left-back Raphael Guerreiro got in on the act just before the hour, rifling home an inviting Ramos assist, before Manuel Akanji stabbed home a consolation which barely merited a celebration.
Ramos returned from provider to goalscorer with the first hat-trick of this World Cup, delicately chipping Sommer to emphatically vindicate his manager’s faith.
Ronaldo was finally introduced from the bench shortly after and though Portugal did add a sixth it was another youngster on the scoresheet rather than their elder statesman, with Rafael Leao curling exquisitely into the corner in added time.
How Portugal ignored Ronaldo noise to reach quarter-finals
Switzerland had settled into their third-successive last-16 World Cup game the better before Ramos’ opener, despite a change in shape to a back three for the first time in the tournament.
But after that opening blow, they never recovered. Ramos and Otavio both tested Sommer while Xherdan Shaqiri went close with a rare Switzerland attack from a free-kick, before Pepe gave Portugal a first-half cushion.
He was left totally unmarked to power home a corner and write himself into the history books, sitting only behind Roger Milla as the oldest World Cup goalscorer – and sitting alone as a record breaker in the knockout stages.
Both sides could have added to the scoreline before half-time, but six minutes after the restart the game did have its third goal, when the again impressive Diogo Dalot’s powerful low cross was turned through Sommer’s legs by Ramos.
Three soon became four as Switzerland heads dropped, and Edmilson Fernandes’ lax defending allowed Guerreiro a free run forward to meet Ramos’ pass and fire into the roof of the net.
Akanji’s close-range finish at least got Switzerland on the scoresheet but they were back to picking the ball out of their own net within nine minutes, as Ramos’ delicate dink beat Sommer and earned him the match ball.
This looked more and more like a statement win as time went on, and Leao showcased the depth of talent at Portugal’s disposal late on as he curled in a magnificent sixth four minutes after coming off the bench and earned his country the second-biggest win of the World Cup so far.
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