Portugal advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals with a 6-1 thrashing of Switzerland on Tuesday thanks to a hat trick from substitute Goncalo Ramos.
Head coach Fernando Santos made a gutsy choice to dismiss Ronaldo following a quarrel in their last match, but Portugal proved to be free-scoring without him, setting up a quarterfinal clash with Morocco on Saturday.
At the Lusail stadium, 21-year-old Ramos made his first international start and promptly opened the scoring with a rocket strike inside goalkeeper Yann Sommer’s near post. Later in the game, 39-year-old veteran defender Pepe became the oldest scorer in a World Cup knockout game with a thumping header.
A minute into the second half, Ramos scored again, this time by tapping in a low cross from defender Diogo Dalot between Sommer’s legs. To make it four, Raphael Guerreiro finished off a fine team effort with a resounding shot.
On 58 minutes, Switzerland pulled one back when Manuel Akanji found space at the back post to head in a corner. However, this did not spark a comeback, and Ramos scored his third with a deft chip over an onrushing Sommer, becoming the youngest male player to score a hat trick in a World Cup knockout match since Brazil legend Pele in 1958.
The Portuguese scored their sixth and final goal in the 94th minute thanks to a spectacular shot from replacement Rafael Leao. Ronaldo entered the game off the bench at the 72:20 mark and had a goal ruled out for offside shortly after.
“In fact, Cristiano Ronaldo is often chatting with me and the rest of the squad. In addition to being the team’s leader, he also makes an effort to aid in every manner possible “Ramos declared after the game. “I don’t know if I will start the next game, that’s up to the coach, I have to train as hard as I can, and then we’ll see.”
After being eliminated in the group stage (Brazil 2014) and the round of 16 (South Africa 2010 and Russia 2018), Portugal finally won a knockout game for the first time since the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The game was dull until the 17th minute when Ramos put the Portuguese ahead by picking up Joao Felix’s pinpoint pass and shooting the ball into the top corner from a narrow-angle.
Pepe, their captain, extended their advantage in the 33rd minute when he perfectly timed a leap to get his head on a Bruno Fernandes corner and score with Sommer again well beaten.
At the other end, Switzerland’s Breel Embolo was unable to break through the Portugal defense despite making several forays into the final third, and Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick was deflected out for a corner when it looked like it would go in.
Portuguese led 2-0 at halftime after a goal by Ramos, but Sommer, back in goal after an illness, made a great fingertip save to save a second goal.
Just six minutes after the resumption of play, Ramos was in the correct location at the near post to slip the ball between Sommer’s legs and give Portugal a three-goal cushion. Dalot’s cross was the only thing standing between the ball and the goal.
Despite what we usually bring to the field, we did not display that today,” Sommer stated. “It’s a bitterly cold night outside. Our team was overly generous in allowing the other team room to maneuver. I, too, have not made the best impression on occasion. In the face of such foes, our strategy is doomed to failure.”