Portugal 6 Switzerland 1
By Jason Burt in Lusail
So, now we know. It is not just Manchester United who are better without Cristiano Ronaldo. It certainly helps to state that when his replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scores a hat-trick, the first of the World Cup, and on his first start.
Portugal were completely liberated, playing by far their best football of the tournament, as they overwhelmed Switzerland to set up a quarter-final against Morocco.
But what pressure there must have been on Ramos and how he delivered. “Not even in my best dreams did I expect this,” he said before hailing Ronaldo as his role model growing up.
As ever, all eyes were on Ronaldo and while it was a brave decision by coach Fernando Santos to drop him it was, as with what has happened at United where the striker’s contract has been ripped up after his unconscionable behaviour, the right one.
Rather like United manager Erik ten Hag, Santos has had enough.
Afterwards, he insisted leaving out Ronaldo was tactical rather than disciplinary, but hinted he might have to get on with his new role. “That is still something that has to be defined,” Santos said.
“I have a close relationship with him, I always have had. I have known him since he was 19 at Sporting. Ronaldo and I never misinterpret the human aspect with the manager and player.”
Without Ronaldo, Portugal were fluid, energetic and played as a team, with Joao Felix taking the baton as their creator while Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva were also freer.
It will be fascinating to see how Ronaldo, with his 195 caps and his 118 goals and, above all, his over-arching ego, reacts.
Portugal probably felt like his haven after the turmoil at United, but now he has been left out by his country as well as his club. What an amazing self-engineered fall and especially as Ronaldo, a free agent, had hoped to use this World Cup to find himself a Champions League club. The attention will remain on the 37-year-old. It always does. Even this report does.
As the teams emerged for kick-off, the lenses of virtually every photographer were trained on the Portugal bench, ignoring the players on the pitch.
When the national anthems played and the big screens cut to Ronaldo, there was a huge cheer.
He has been playing poorly and rather than dragging Portugal through, as he has done so many times, he has been holding them back. Still, it was a shock to see him listed among the substitutes.
The last time Portugal started without Ronaldo in a major tournament knockout tie was the semi-final of Euro 2000. He did come on. But only when it was 5-1.
Earlier there were chants of “Ronaldo” – followed by boos as he failed to budge – but it felt as if he was being treated like some kind of tribute act. Santos cannily made sure it was not Ramos who he was subbed on for – that would have been painful for Ronaldo who, at the final whistle, acknowledged the fans on his own before disappearing down the tunnel as his team-mates celebrated. It really is bordering on the pathetic.
And what of Ramos? The 21-year-old from Benfica, wearing the No 26 shirt and who had previously played just 33 minutes for Portugal, was sensational.
So involved was he in the goals, he even got an assist for the Swiss as he inadvertently headed on a corner which was bundled home by Manuel Akanji.
His hat-trick was sublime: one goal of power, another all about the movement and the third as cool as you like. He could have had a fourth, but was thwarted by Yann Sommer with a one-handed save.
Not that the Swiss goalkeeper got remotely close to Ramos’s first as he collected a pass from Felix and lashed a brutal left-foot shot from a tight angle that squeezed inside the near post and was still rising as it hit the net.
Ramos peeled away and blew on his fingertips as if they were pistols. In the dugout? The camera did eventually cut to Ronaldo and he looked, well, he looked pensive. Hardly ecstatic, it must be said.
His reaction to Portugal’s second goal, though, was rather different, with Ronaldo racing out with the other substitutes to join in after Pepe leapt high to meet a corner. Maybe it was telling that Pepe, the 39-year-old warhorse recalled because Danilo is out injured, is a long-time team-mate of Ronaldo for Portugal and also for Real Madrid. Cynical? Possibly.
The goals flowed. Early in the second half, Ramos darted towards the near post and stabbed in Diogo Dalot’s low cross before there was a backheel from Otavio, an exchange of passes and a ball from Ramos to tee up Raphael Guerreiro.
The Swiss pulled one back, but there was no chance. They were beaten, and Portugal rammed that home with two more goals. Silva picked out Felix, who weighed a pass into Ramos’s path. Clear on goal, he calmly dinked the ball beyond Sommer. Ronaldo had never scored a goal in a World Cup knockout tie and, here, his replacement had three inside 67 minutes.
But my, did Ronaldo try when he came on. He had the ball in the net, but was rightly pulled up for offside, struck an ambitious free-kick into the wall, and strained every sinew. Instead, though, it was another replacement, Rafael Leao, who scored as he cut in from the left. Ronaldo could only stand and watch.
Portugal (4-3-3): Costa 7; Dalot 7, Pepe 7, Dias 7, Guerreiro 8; Otavia 7 (Vitinha , 73), Carvalho 6, Silva 7 (Neves , 81); Fernandes 7 (Leao, 88), Ramos 9 (Horta, 73), Felix 8 (Ronaldo, 73).
Goals: Ramos (17, 51, 67), Pepe (33), Guerreiro (55), Leao (90+2).
Substitutes not used: Patrício, Palhinha, Andre Silva, Sa, Mario, Cancelo, Nunes, Antonio Silva.
Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Sommer 5; Fernandes 5, Schar 4 (Coemert, 46), Akanji 5, Rodriguez 5; Freuler 4 (Zakaria, 54), Xhaka 4; Shaqiri 6, Sow 4 (Seferovic, 54), Vargas 4 (Okafor, 66); Embolo 6 (Ashari, 89).
Goal: Akanji (58).
Booked: Schar, Coemert.
Substitutes not used: Elvedi, Steffen, Omlin, Aebischer, Fassnacht, Frei, Kobel, Kohn, Rieder.
Referee: Cesar Ramos (Mexico).
Portugal vs Switzerland: As it happened
Analysis: Pepe belies his years with talismanic performance
By Jeremy Wilson in Lusail
The golden oldies were not all at risk of extinction in Qatar on Tuesday night.
While Cristiano Ronaldo was being forced to face up to the fact that his days as a first-choice international as well as elite club striker are coming to an end, an old friend was proving that unlikely encores are at least still possible.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos had described Pepe as “a monster” when he announced that he would be recalled to the starting team for the second group game against Uruguay and the former Real Madrid bad-boy has since done nothing to disprove that description.
Strong in the tackle, smart in his positioning and as intimidating as ever simply to look at, Pepe even marked his 132nd Portugal cap here with a rare goal to become the oldest defender in World Cup history to score. It was Pepe’s first international goal for more than four years and, with his 40th birthday looming in February, he is now also the second oldest outfield player to start any World Cup game after Cameroon legend Roger Milla.
Pepe’s chance followed a mystery injury that has left Danilo Pereira with three broken ribs and, while his good form will surprise no fans of Porto over recent years, one suspects that his most important role may actually be between now and Saturday’s quarter-final against Morocco.
Santos made the biggest decision of his managerial career in dropping Ronaldo for this match and he now needs Pepe – easily his next most authoritative dressing-room figure – to help guide a delicate internal squad dynamic over the coming days.
Few can seriously question the wisdom of Santos’s decision, but that does not preclude the possibility of significant tensions and it was noticeable here that Ronaldo was down the tunnel before most of the team-mates following the final whistle. Pepe, by contrast, lingered for a good 10 minutes both to share his delight with the Portugal fans and simply sign copious numbers of autographs.
Although it cannot have been easy for Ronaldo to join the wider undiluted joy at his direct replacement Goncalo Ramos scoring a hat-trick, he did look genuinely thrilled when Pepe, a player with whom he has shared so much for club and country, rose to head Portugal into a 2-0 lead.
With Pepe generating such height in his leap and then hovering in the air to deadly effect, it was a finish that belied his years and was genuinely reminiscent of Ronaldo in his pomp.
After leaving Madrid for Besiktas in 2017, Pepe has then spent the past four years back at Porto, winning two more league titles to add to those he first won way back in 2006 and 2007.
He looks physically just as fit as ever and, in the selfless way that he always puts team success before personal glory, will be a crucial example to the entire group, including the captain.
Little gestures can assume huge influence and it was noticeable when Ronaldo did finally come on after 73 minutes that Pepe made a point of ensuring that he was immediately handed back the captain’s armband.
Pepe and Ronaldo have known each since they were teenagers at Sporting Lisbon in 2002 and, after 15 trophies during almost a decade together at Real Madrid, they are invariably at one another’s side around Portugal’s training base.
At a combined age of 76, they had both arrived in Qatar knowing that this was realistically their last chance to win the one remaining major trophy in football that has eluded them.
Ronaldo had started in the team and scored in the opening game against Ghana while Pepe was on the bench. That expected script has now taken a dramatically different twist and it is Ronaldo who looks destined for the role of bit-part extra while Pepe takes centre stage.
Pepe, though, is Ronaldo’s longest-standing and most influential friend in the group. And, if he can persuade the country’s greatest ever player to positively accept his new status in the team, Portugal really will take some stopping.
Cristiano Ronaldo looked to be off down the tunnel quickly at full time
Most of his team-mates were still celebrating on the pitch.
Goalscoring hero Goncalo Ramos said after the match: "Cristiano Ronaldo talks to me and everyone in the team. He's our leader and always tries to help."
Ian Wright on why Ronaldo should embrace his role
Cristiano Ronaldo can look at his team and think from back to front, that's a team that can easily go all the way. And he can still contribute to the team without having to do so much.
He could still end up scoring the winner for them in the final.
Here is Leao's goal, Portugal's sixth
What a night for Ramos
Neville on Ronaldo
Ronaldo celebrated like crazy for the first two goals. I've given him some criticism for sulking but that wasn't the case.
Gary Neville after the game
The tournament is bubbling now with Brazil's performance last night, Portugal tonight, France and England. It wasn't just Ronaldo tonight, Santos left out Neves and Cancelo but was rewarded with great team performance. They were outstanding tonight Portugal.
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FT: Portugal 6 Switzerland 1
An exhibition of attacking football from Portugal, who took full advantage of Switzerland's tactical and technical mistakes. A strong response to Brazil's win last night that confirms their status as World Cup contenders, unaffected by the Ronaldo saga.
A very un-Swiss like performance who unexpectedly changed to a back three are left themselves too open; foolishly cavalier at times. How they must be wishing they were boring again.
Portugal were always going to win a talent contest in an open game.
GOOOOAAALLL! Leao puts his stamp on the evening
Portugal have six, and it is another stylish finish. If Leao comes to the party in this tournament, Portugal will be difficult to live with. The winger drives down the left, cuts inside Akanji and Xhaka and bends a shot into the far corner. Sommer rooted, might be some questions about why he didn't dive. Looked wrong-footed.
After the body blow of losing Gabriel Jesus for potentially three months after knee surgery, Arsenal fans will be pleased to see Granit Xhaka coming home safe and sound (although he can't play at centre-forward).
Just the four added minutes for Switzerland to endure. The perfect night for Portugal and Santos.
Ronaldo looked to be ghosting in behind the Switzerland defence there but Comert hooked the ball away from him. Bruno Fernandes' work is done with Leao replacing him. What a collection of attacking talent Santos has in this squad.
Ronaldo fires the ball past Sommer but the flag goes up for offside. He was three yards off, not semi-automated technology necessary for that one.
Xhaka glances over the bar from a near-post corner, and Bernardo Silva departs to a great ovation. What a magical player he is, shifting from deep to high midfield depending on what his team needs and constantly getting them out of tight spots.
Ronaldo enters the fray
Shaqiri still full of forward running for Switzerland, but there is nothing he and Embolo could have done to stem the tide in this match. Switzerland's defensive system has been picked off and they have been out-numbered in midfield.
Much excitement in the crowd as Ronaldo stands over a free-kick from 35 yards, but he blasts it into the wall. Fernandes with some lovely skill in his own half, but I'm not sure Carvalho appreciated it, shovelling the ball back to the goalkeeper.
Right then, here comes Ronaldo from the bench alongside Vitinha and Horta.
Pepe hands Ronaldo the armband before he comes on, to a deafening roar from the fans.
The players coming off are Felix, Goncalo Ramos and Otavio. A night that hat-trick Ramos will never forget.
Portugal are playing champagne football - Port or Madeira football does not have quite the same wring to it - with Fernandes pinging a diagonal out to Felix on the left who tried to volley a cross to Ramos. They are enjoying themselves out there.
GOOOAAALLL! Ramos seals his hat-trick
It is another sumptuous finish as he waits for Sommer to go down before lifting it over the goalkeeper. More poor Swiss defending but a dream night for Ramos, who in case you missed it is a 21-year-old starting ahead of Cristiano Ronalod tonight. That's his third and Portugal's fifth.
Switzerland applying some pressure, although talk of an incredible comeback is surely premature. Shaqiri penalised for a push. The Portugal crowd inside the stadium are calling for Ronaldo.
Switzerland applying some pressure, although talk of an incredible comeback is surely premature. Shaqiri penalised for a push. The Portugal crowd inside the stadium are calling for Ronaldo.
So as you were at half time, Portugal with a three-goal lead. The half-time substitute Comert has just been booked. Switzerland have been called a boring team at past tournaments, but they have brought goals at both ends in their last few games. And they have won another corner! But this time Dias heads clear.
GOOOOAAALL! Switzerland have scored
Akanji taps into an empty net after a Portuguese head flicked on a Swiss corner at the near post. That adds a degree of respectability to the scoreline, at least.
GOOOOOAAALL! Portugal have four
Switzerland caught well out of shape again, with Otavio taking Fernandes out of the game with a flick around the corner. Portugal had a four on two as they ran towards the box, and Guerreiro finished high into the roof of the net. This is a rout.
A couple of Swiss changes: Seferovic and Zakaria on, for Sow and Freuler. Given how Switzerland have been over-run in midfield it is perhaps surprising Zakaria was not on earlier. Embolo smashes into Dias out of frustration.
Switzerland need to stem the bleeding here, this is turning into a nightmare. Bruno Fernandes is not happy with Felix for taking on a shot across goal when there were numbers in the box. Fernandes delivers the corner and Pepe wins the header, but Switzerland clear.
GOOOAAAALLL! Ramos scores another
That is game over, and even Ronaldo is laughing on the touchline. Dalot gets down the right and whips a low cross to the near post which creeps beyond Vargas. Ramos got across the near post like all good strikers are told to do, and his flick squeezed past Sommer. What a night for the 21-year-old Portugal striker.
Switzerland just about manage to deal with a corner at the back post. Ronaldo is out warming up on the touchline, whether that is to attract the attention of Santos we are not sure.
Portugal on the attack again, with Fernandes moving past Freuler all too easily.
Sommer just about gets enough on his pass out to the Swiss right-back Fernandes. Carvalho looks for the run of Bernardo Silva but Comert gets across to complete his first piece of defending since coming on a sub.
Breel Embolo has been the pick of the Swiss players tonight:
We're back under way
Switzerland get us started as they look for a way back into this.
Swiss change at the break
Cömert has replaced Schar in defence, and it looks like they are playing with a back four now.
Who has thrived for Portugal in Ronaldo's absence?
FT: Portugal 2 Switzerland 0
Without doubt Portugal's best 45 minutes of the tournament, and they did it with Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. On that evidence, he might struggle to get off it.
Switzerland made a reasonable start, there was little in the game before Goncalo Ramos' goal, but have been out-classed since despite Embolo carrying the fight.
Their change of system has not worked at all, far too easy for Portugal to find space. They need to switch to a back four.
Portugal have another corner, with Switzerland still not looking comfortable as a defensive unit. Portugal take this one short and are keeping it patiently before Guerreiro slashes over the bar with wild shot from distance.
That was beautiful glide forward from Felix, taking the ball from inside his own half into the final third, but things rather congested around Bruno Fernandes at the end of the move.
There will be FOUR minutes of added time.
Good save from Sommer to stop Ramos from finishing this as a contest! Schar booked for a late tackle in the build up, but Switzerland's back three was all at sea again. Ramos was through in the left channel, and tried to measure his left-footed finish but Sommer got down to tip it around the post.
Bruno Fernandes puts his hand up to apologise from a mis-hit cross from the right for Portugal. Swizterland then play some really nice football to work the ball all the way out to Vargas on the left but his cross was poor.
Decent chance for Switzerland! They worked the ball out to Fernandes wide right, and Costa rather flapped at his low cross, but was alive to get a palm on Freuler's header on the follow up. A goal before half time for Switzerland changes the complexion of this game.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos will be feeling pretty good about things just now. Will he give Ronaldo minutes from the bench in the second half or leave him be to ram the point home?
Switzerland need to change shape and go back to what they know.
GOOOOAAALLL! Pepe buries the header
An emphatic header from the 39-year-old. He got in between Akanji and Schar to attack the delivery and powered the header into the bottom corner. A long way back for Switzerland now.
That was a wicked cross in from Felix, and Rodriguez's defensive header flashed wide of his own goal. Corner for Portugal.
"A different vibe, a different energy about this Portugal team," says Clive Tyldesley on the absence of Ronaldo.
Embolo then bullies Ruben Dias and drives Switzerland forward, winning a free-kick. The Monaco striker has been outstanding in this tournament. Must be close to 40 yards out, right of centre.
Shaqiri took a surprise shot and caught it well, with Costa tipping behind for a corner. Cleared by Fernandes at the near post.
Switzerland are gaining some territory, particularly through Vargas on their left. Portugal have defended their box well when required though. Ramos has shown some lovely touches since his goal.
Goncalo Ramos the man of the moment
Guerreiro has caused Fernandes real problems with his forward bursts, I'm not sure the Swiss player is a natural wing-back. Murat Yakin might need to think about a tweak of system, because Portugal's playmakers are finding space around an over-worked midfield two of Xhaka and Freueler. And to make matters worse, Schar is down for Switzerland.
The power in that left-footed strike from Ramos was devastating, shades of Robin van Persie at his best. Portugal now playing with their tails up, Switzerland having problems defending their right flank, and Otavia sees a shot saved by Sommer.
GOOOAAAALLL! Ramos gives Portugal the lead with a scorching hit
The 21-year-old preferred to Ronaldo has produced one of the finishes of the tournament. Questions could be asked of why Schar let the striker turn in the box, but it a tight-ish angle and on Ramos' left peg. The forward who only made his Portugal debut a few games ago, fires a shot off the top of the post into the roof of the net. Sommer no chance.
That was Portugal's best piece of play so far, and it was a lovely first touch from Bernardo Silva to open things up in the box. Rodriguez was in the right place to clear his low cross.
Portugal starting to dictate possession, they should have numerical advantage in midfield against this Swiss system. Pepe brings the ball out and whips and ball across the area, easily dealt with.
Superb centre-forward play from Embolo to set the Swiss off on the attack but Dalot gets across to defend against Vargas.
Portugal try to clip a ball in behind for Dalot who had run off Vargas, but Switzerland left-back Rodriguez did well to cover. Looks like a change of system for Switzerland tonight, with Rodriguez on the left of a back three, and Vargas and Fernandes as wing-backs.
Jeremy Wilson's view 10 minutes in...
Great cheer goes up during the Portugal national anthem when the benched Cristiano Ronaldo's face appeared on the stadium big screen. Extraordinary also to see the mass of photographers - and about 95% of the lenses aimed in the direction of the Portugal dugout rather than the players out on the pitch. Huge night for Goncalo Ramos, the 21-year-old Benfica striker who has been brought into the team to play as the main central striker in place of Ronaldo. He's already pressing rather more off the ball.
Switzerland will be quite happy with how they have settled so far, the game is being played at quite a serene pass. Portugal are not the most physical team in the tournament and do not really press from the front. Switzerland able to knock the ball around quite comfortably, with Akanji striding out with the ball.
Switzerland have an early corner after good work from Embolo. Taken short and then crossed in towards Schar in the box, before Otavia wins Portugal a foul on the edge of the box. Switzerland are looking to press with two forwards and an attacking midfielder behind them in a triangle, which is pretty aggressive.
Now Embolo is down after a challenge with Dias near the touchline, claiming he was caught in the chops by the right arm of the defender. There was some contact, but it was no bent elbow from the Man City man. The Switzerland striker is back on his feet and able to continue.
An early loose pass from Embolo has he dropped back into midfield. Portugal ping the ball out to Guerreiro, it was a fabulous diagonal pass from Pepe, but Fernandes could not gather Felix's pass into the penalty area.
Portugal get us under way.
Jason Burt: Photographers crowding the Portugal bench
Virtually every photographer has a camera pointing at Cristiano Ronaldo, ignoring the Portugal and Switzerland teams as they come out. He is sitting in the dug-out and there was a huge cheer as the giant screens inside the Lusail Iconic Stadium showed him singing the Portuguese national anthem. Feels strange to watch Portugal with Ronaldo dropped even though it looks like the right call. An awful lot of 'Ronaldo tourists' inside the stadium which, again, is far from full.
The players are on their way out
Time for the anthems, as Ronaldo takes his place on the bench. Switzerland flew out of the traps against Serbia, will they look to do the same and take advantage of any uncertainty in the Portugal ranks?
The Shaq attack
Xherdan Shaqiri appears in his 112th game for Switzerland tonight equaling the tallying of Alain Geiger. Only Heinz Herrmann played more games for Switzerland (118 appearances)
The warm-ups are in full-swing
Telegraph columnist Jamie Carragher reacts
Ronaldo sits out for the first time in 14 years
Predict the score
How do you think today's game will finish?
ITV pundits share their thoughts on Ronaldo
It wouldn't surprise me if Ronaldo comes on and scores the winner but the petulance and sulking has to stop.
He is one of the all time great players but in the short term he has to do better.
As great as he is, it's a team game. He's not playing well, the last few years. It's not ending well, and it seems to be that he is not enjoying it. It's a sad situation.
'Humiliation' for Ronaldo
The international reaction to Ronaldo's demotion to the bench has been swift and brutal. German outlet Bild has called it "a humiliation" while, even as they reel from Spain's last-16 defeat to Morocco, Marca's assessment is similarly unflinching: "Fernando Santos' punishment of Cristiano Ronaldo is already a reality."
'Big call by Fernando Santos'
Destined for the bench
Ronaldo dropped as Portugal begin their knockout campaign
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of Portugal versus Switzerland, with kick off at the Lusail Stadium at 7pm.
Cristiano Ronaldo will start on the bench in Portugal's first knockout match of the tournament, following coach Fernando Santos' criticism of the national talisman's behaviour against South Korea.
Ronaldo was substituted in Portugal's final group stage match, and was seen talking and gesturing as he made his way to the bench. Whilst Santos had initially thought Ronaldo's reaction was directed at a South Korean opponent, review of the footage marked Ronaldo's exit out as one of frustration in light of Santos' decision.
In his pre-match press conference, Santos brought up the incident, saying: "I didn't like. Not at all. I really didn't like it."
Ronaldo occupies a towering position in Portuguese football, and for many, might be seen as undroppable, particularly in these critical stages of the tournament.
But Santos' decision ahead of today's match suggests a shattering of this impression, in a show of strength which echoed Ronaldo's former club manager, Erik ten Hag's decision to drop Ronaldo from the matchday squad following his player's refusal to come on as a substitute against Tottenham in October.
Ronaldo formally parted ways with Manchester United at the end of last month following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan where the Portugal player openly disparaged both the club and the manager.
The interview aired ahead of Portugal's first match in the tournament, and threatened to cast a pall over Portugal's preparations; instead, trouble of a difference shade has kept Ronaldo from starting for his country as he bids to challenge for one of the few trophies that has eluded him.
We will be bringing you the rest of the team news, build-up, and live reaction to Ronaldo's dropping ahead of kick-off, so make sure to stay tuned.