Portugal vs Switzerland. FIFA World Cup Round of 16.
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Match report as Goncalo Ramos nets first hat-trick of World Cup 2022 as Portugal drop Cristiano Ronaldo but thrash Switzerland 6-1 in last 16; Raphael Guerreiro, Pepe and Rafael Leao also on target in superb win
Wednesday 7 December 2022 06:07, UK
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 conquerors 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 that 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.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos addressed the situation surrounding Ronaldo, and his response to coming off in their previous game, after the emphatic win, saying: "What I think is most important is to stop this a little bit. It's not easy to be in the middle of the World Cup, and realise people are not very happy. We have to deal with it.
"I think those issues have been solved. I will always consider my role that he is a very important player to have in the team."
Portugal: Costa (6), Dalot (7), Pepe (7), Dias (7), Guerreiro (8), Otavio (7), Carvalho (7), Silva (7), Fernandes (7), Ramos (9), Felix (8).
Subs: Ronaldo (6), Vitinha (6), Horta (6), Neves, Leao (n/a).
Switzerland: Sommer (5), Akanji (6), Schar (4), Rodriguez (5), Fernandes (4), Vargas (4), Xhaka (5), Sow (4), Freuler (5), Embolo (6), Xhaqiri (5).
Subs: Comert (4), Zakaria (5), Seferovic (5), Okafor (5), Jashari (n/a).
Player of the match: Goncalo Ramos.
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 - something Xherdan Shaqiri later told reporters was a "surprise" decision from manager Murat Yakin.
That may have explained why, 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's 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.
That earned his country the second-biggest win of the World Cup so far - and Switzerland's worst defeat in the tournament's history.
Portugal will now face Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday, kick-off 3pm. The winner of that game will play either England or France in the World Cup semi-finals.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos:
"I think those issues [with Ronaldo] have been solved. I repeat myself from my previous press conference, it is something which is finished and solved.
"We have to look at this player's history, one of the best players in the world in terms of his goals scored and a captain. Therefore, I think all we have to do is think about the team collectively.
"I have a very close relationship with him and always have, since he was 19-years-old at Sporting. Then he started to develop in the national squad, this relationship only develops.
"We never misinterpret the human and personal aspect with that of manager and player. I will always consider my role that he is a very important player to have in the team."
Switzerland manager Murat Yakin:
"[A back three] wasn't a big change. We did partially also play with a four-man backline. We noticed our plan wasn't working, and we probably missed a few challenges where we should have done more, challenged the opponent more and been more dominant in our play.
"But we have to admit they were better, faster and more offensive. Our game plan didn't work, and we have to accept that. I congratulate Portugal on this win and we have to just take it.
"Defeat is painful, we are sad about the way we played and the result. We wanted to make the country happy, we didn't achieve that today.
"We lost a game today. That doesn't mean we have to be too pessimistic and criticise everything. The team has shown great spirit, they had great plans for today, and wanted to pick up where we left off [against Serbia].
"Today we have to accept Portugal were better. I think it's something we have to put behind us now, we will get through it as a team and look forward."
Friday December 9
Croatia vs Brazil - Kick-off 3pm
Netherlands vs Argentina - Kick-off 7pm
Saturday December 10
Morocco vs Portugal - Kick-off 3pm
England vs France - Kick-off 7pm