Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t named in Portugal’s starting XI for two back-to-back games at a major tournament for the first time since 2008. Portugal coach Fernando Santos handed 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos a debut and he vindicated the call with a hat-trick in a 6-1 win over Switzerland, setting up a World Cup quarterfinal against Morocco. Ronaldo was once again on the bench for Portugal, with Santos making just one change to the side that thrashed Switzerland.
Ronaldo’s buildup to the Qatar World Cup had been anything but smooth. Ronaldo left Premier League giant Manchester United by mutual agreement before Portugal’s World Cup opener after a controversial interview in which the five-time Ballon d’Or winner criticised the club.
But he didn’t let his controversial exit distract him as he then went on to make history as the first male player to score in five World Cups in Portugal’s opening game in Qatar against Ghana. The Portugal captain scored in the 65th minute to open the scoring at Doha’s Stadium 974.
Ronaldo made his international debut in 2003 and scored his first goal in a Euro 2004 group stage match against Greece. His first World Cup goal, in 2006, came in a 2-0 win over Iran. His next World Cup goal came four years later in South Africa in a 7-0 rout of North Korea. Ronaldo also scored in Portugal’s 2-1 win over Ghana in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. However, Ronaldo, who had been Portugal’s attacking fulcrum since his debut, found himself on the sidelines in a must-win match.
Cut to the 2022 World Cup quarters and Portugal was trailing Morocco 0-1, with Youssef En-Nesyri heading one in in the first half. Portugal, in desperate need of a breakthrough, turned to its talisman once again.
Ronaldo finally came on in the 51st minute. In what was his 196th international cap, he equalled the men’s record held by Kuwait forward Bader Al-Mutawa. Ronaldo already holds the record for most men’s international goals, with 118. However, CR7 failed to make any significant impact, managing only 10 touches in total.
When Rafael Leao’s 97th-minute cross flew over Ronaldo’s head before being headed wide by Pepe, Ronaldo sank to his knees in the box and, with his head in his hands, seemingly resigned to his fate.
Ronaldo headed down the tunnel in tears after Portugal’s World Cup quarterfinal defeat. Ronaldo has now failed to score in all eight of his knockout stage appearances at the World Cup (including third place play-off), going 570 minutes without scoring and taking 27 shots in the process.