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Cristiano Ronaldo Mocked After Benching as Portugal Tops Switzerland at World Cup

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 6, 2022

LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - DECEMBER 06: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal looks on from the bench during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Portugal and Switzerland at Lusail Stadium on December 06, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Portugal is a better football team without Cristiano Ronaldo, and the only person who doesn't seem to know that is Ronaldo himself.

Harsh or not, it was the general sentiment after Portugal blasted Switzerland on Tuesday 6-1 in round-of-16 play at the World Cup. Ronaldo didn't start in the game and wasn't subbed on until the 72nd minute, while his replacement in the starting 11, Gonçalo Ramos, notched a hat trick and added an assist.

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

PORTUGAL TAKES THE LEAD <br><br>Gonçalo Ramos who got the start over Ronaldo puts Portugal on top 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/zJKwysZhTK">pic.twitter.com/zJKwysZhTK</a>

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Have yourself a day Gonçalo Ramos 🔥🔥🔥<br><br>Portugal is cruising against Switzerland 🇵🇹 <a href="https://t.co/ahQGkmDJKL">pic.twitter.com/ahQGkmDJKL</a>

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

PORTUGAL IS FLYING 🇵🇹<br><br>Raphaël Guerreiro makes it 4-0 💪 <a href="https://t.co/mnTNms5NT6">pic.twitter.com/mnTNms5NT6</a>

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

HAT TRICK FOR RAMOS<br><br>Gonçalo Ramos nets the first hat trick of the 2022 FIFA World Cup 🔥🇵🇹 <a href="https://t.co/YYEzJxZepu">pic.twitter.com/YYEzJxZepu</a>

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

With a 5-1 lead over Switzerland, Ronaldo comes into the game for Portugal 🇵🇹 <a href="https://t.co/f5G31kesql">pic.twitter.com/f5G31kesql</a>

And yet, Ronaldo was the storyline. Without him, Portugal looked like a legitimate contender to win a World Cup title, brushing aside the dangerous Swiss with relative ease.

Unsurprisingly, football Twitter had a field day dunking on Ronaldo after the match:

ksi @KSI

So…I’m gonna say it…<br><br>Ronaldo holds teams back. <a href="https://t.co/mbQIAbJmYQ">pic.twitter.com/mbQIAbJmYQ</a>

Oliver Holt @OllieHolt22

Portugal look so much better without Ronaldo in starting eleven. Genuine challengers to win tournament.

David McDonnell @DiscoMirror

Hard to see Ronaldo reclaiming his place, with Ramos scoring again. Offers everything Ronaldo currently doesn’t. Superb movement and another clinical finish <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/POR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#POR</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIFAWorldCup2022?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIFAWorldCup2022</a>

Usher Komugisha @UsherKomugisha

Portugal 🇵🇹 play way better as a team without Cristiano Ronaldo.

Luis Miguel Echegaray @lmechegaray

Jokes aside. This is what we’ve been talking about. It’s so clear how much better <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/POR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#POR</a> play without Ronaldo. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. It’s natural to think this. The attacking movement is not dependent on targets but rather fluidity. It’s not hard to figure out.

Al Foran @ImpressionistAL

Ronaldo will always be considered one of the greatest ever, but at this point in his career he holds back any top team he plays in, look how good Portugal are here? A far more intrinsic unit without him, very much like Man Utd this season under ten Hag.

John Cross @johncrossmirror

Turns out Portugal are loads better without Ronaldo. Imagine if he had honest people around him rather than a load of sycophants… then he could be a decent option as a sub when needed.

Jimmy Conrad @JimmyConrad

Cristiano Ronaldo has officially entered his "Michael Jordan playing for the Washington Wizards" era. <br><br>It'll never be the same as it was.

Richard Jolly 🇺🇦 @RichJolly

Goncalo Ramos has scored more goals in the knockout stages of World Cups than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Gary Lineker 💙💛 @GaryLineker

Pepe has scored 2 more goals in World Cup knockout games than Ronaldo.

Amitai Winehouse @awinehouse1

Cristiano Ronaldo smiling and applauding that fourth goal <a href="https://t.co/WXs47vr0gi">pic.twitter.com/WXs47vr0gi</a>

Brian Amaral @bamaral44

Same face <a href="https://t.co/IvlHCWlCFT">https://t.co/IvlHCWlCFT</a> <a href="https://t.co/wbZOtMyMAd">pic.twitter.com/wbZOtMyMAd</a>

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

Chances CR7 is actually happy celebrating these goals? 000000.01%?

Ronaldo's role as a sub was deserved on more than one level. It obviously was the correct tactical move, given the result, but he also earned the ire of manager Fernando Santos after he appeared to say, "He's in a rush to sub me" while unhappily leaving the pitch as part of a 65th-minute change during Friday's 2-1 loss to South Korea.

"On the pitch, I didn't hear anything," Santos told reporters this week of the incident. "I was too far, and this is why I only saw him arguing with a South Korean player, and nothing else."

"Have I already watched the footage? Yes. I didn't like it," he continued. "Didn't like it at all. From there, it's things you sort out internally. It was sorted out this way, and now we think about the game tomorrow. Everyone is focused on the game."

And yet Ronaldo is undoubtedly a legend of the game and the most important player in Portugal's history, so keeping him out of the starting lineup for a knockout-phase game was no small decision. Even if it felt like the correct move, it was still shocking.

It has to be Santos' approach going forward, however. Portugal was a buzzsaw without Ronaldo, a player who still has a goal in him but is little more than a poacher at this point in his career. He simply doesn't offer the dynamic movement or pressing that Ramos brings to the table, making Portugal far more static when he's on the pitch.

Time spares no man. It's a lesson that can be hard to face for once-elite athletes in particular. But on Tuesday, it was abundantly clear that the 37-year-old's time as Portugal's centerpiece is well and truly over.