Fernando Santos Praises 'Genius' Cristiano Ronaldo After Portugal Hat-Trick

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2019

PORTO, PORTUGAL - JUNE 5:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Juventus celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Nations League Semi-Final match between Portugal and Switzerland at Estadio do Dragao on June 5, 2019 in Porto, Portugal.  (Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)
Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Portugal manager Fernando Santos lauded Cristiano Ronaldo as a "genius" after he fired in a hat-trick to help the European champions beat Switzerland 3-1 on Wednesday in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals. 

Ronaldo opened the scoring midway through the first half and bagged two late goals after Ricardo Rodriguez had pulled the Swiss level with a second-half penalty.

Per the Press Association (h/t MailOnline), Santos said:

"In terms of adjectives to describe Ronaldo's game—I have used many.

"I was his coach in 2003, and I could see where he would go. He is a genius. There is genius paintings and sculptures, and he is a football genius.

"When someone scores three goals, they are the difference-maker."

Ronaldo—who did not feature at all for Portugal in the group stage of the Nations League—made his first impact in the competition with a 25th-minute free-kick.

The Swiss equalised 11 minutes into the second half. Referee Felix Brych had initially awarded a spot-kick to Portugal after Bernardo Silva went down, but a VAR consultation resulted in him giving a penalty to Switzerland for a foul on Steven Zuber moments earlier.

A pair of clinical finishes from Ronaldo decided the game in the hosts' favour at the Estadio do Dragao:

As football writer Graham Ruthven observed, it was a typical performance from the Juventus forward, who had a quiet game before making the decisive contribution:

Graham Ruthven @grahamruthven

Quintessential Ronaldo, that. On the peripheries of the game... three chances, three goals. Game over.

Sky Sports Statto put his hat-trick in context:

Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto

⚽️ @Cristiano scores the 53rd hat-trick of his career for club & country 🇵🇹 All of his 7 hat-tricks for Portugal have been in competitive matches 🔟 Scored in 10 out of 10 tournaments in his international career #PORSWI @UEFAEURO https://t.co/iqTFhEfSR4

The goals took him to 88 for his country in 157 appearances.

Football writer Colin Millar believes he will be targeting Ali Daei's record:

Colin Millar @Millar_Colin

Cristiano Ronaldo up to 88 international goals. 28 goals in his last 26 caps. Only Ali Daei (109, for Iran) has more. Don't be surprised if that record is the next for Ronaldo.

Ronaldo's Portugal will take on either England or Netherlands at the same stadium on Sunday.

The Three Lions have built on reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, while the Oranje are enjoying a resurgence thanks to a new generation of talent, with the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt slotting in alongside more experienced stars such as Virgil van Dijk.

However, with Ronaldo in their side and on home soil, Portugal will fancy their chances against either opponent.