He was only briefly on the field for Portugal’s 6-1 drubbing of Switzerland, but all eyes were on Cristiano Ronaldo after he was benched for the first time in his World Cup career.
All that drama and more in today’s five talking points from Qatar.
Qatar quarterfinalists decided
We have our last eight in Qatar.
Morocco and Portugal were the last two to go through, joining Argentina, Brazil, England, Croatia, France and Netherlands.
In the remaining group there are 10 World Cup titles split between Brazil, Argentina, France and England (although Brazil has half of those), with the Dutch aiming for their fourth final and Croats trying to reach two in a row.
Portugal has reached the quarterfinals for the third time in their history, while Morocco has become the first Arab team to reach the last eight at the World Cup.
But what about Cristiano Ronaldo?
OK, OK. Let’s talk about it.
For the first time in his World Cup career, he was dropped to the bench. And there hasn’t even been an attempt to suggest it was for injury reasons or anything. He’s just fallen out of favour.
Ronaldo has scored one goal at this tournament and hasn’t had the sort of impact one would expect from the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The 37-year-old remonstrated with a South Korean player and apparently slagged off manager Fernando Santos after he was subbed off in Portugal’s 2-1 loss to end the group stage — something Santos said he “didn’t like at all”.
Lo and behold, he was benched for the knockout game against Switzerland, watching as his replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick as Portugal built a 5-1 lead.
Ronaldo only came on in the 74th minute, receiving the captain’s armband from goalscorer and veteran defender Pepe, and eventually finding the back of the net only to have it struck off for a very obvious offside.
He barely cracked a smile after the final whistle and got off the pitch and up the tunnel very quickly as his teammates completed a lap of honour to acknowledge the fans.
As one superstar fades, another emerges
While everyone was looking at Ronaldo, 21-year-old Ramos was busy scoring goals for fun.
He scored the opener in his first start for Portugal, then added goals in the 51st and 67th minutes.
The Benfica star now has three more goals in World Cup knockout games than Ronaldo does from more than 500 minutes of game time.
Just quickly back to Ronaldo, former Socceroo Craig Foster unleashed a conspiracy theory that Santos held him back until as late as was justifiably possible and only let him on the field at the same time as he removed Portugal’s best midfield creators.
“Santos pretty much killed his chances of getting [a goal],” Foster said.
An actual saviour named Bono
Yesterday it was Dominik Livaković for Croatia, today it was Yassine Bounou, or Bono, for Morocco.
But while Croatia beating Japan won’t cause any major ripples in the grand scheme of things, Morocco taking down 2010 champions Spain is another remarkable result in this tournament full of upsets.
But the north-African nation did not lose a match en route to topping Group F and kept that streak alive with a penalty shootout win on the back of Bono’s brilliance.
He went the right way on all three of Spain’s penalties, with Pablo Sarabia’s first attempt hitting the woodwork, and Carlos Oler and Sergio Busquets parried away by the Sevilla superstar.
Qatar World Cup ambassador Samuel Eto’o flattens a YouTuber
Cameroon soccer federation president and former star player Samuel Eto’o was forced to apologise after footage of him kneeing a man in the head, sending him to the ground outside a World Cup stadium, emerged.
The video shows Eto’o posing for selfies with fans near Stadium 974 after Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 before he reacts to comments apparently made by a man recording him with a video camera.
The former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward was initially held back by people in his entourage, but he then got clear and appeared to knee the man in the head.
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“I had a violent altercation with a person who was probably an Algerian supporter,” Eto’o wrote in statements posted in French and English on his Twitter account, citing a months-long campaign by that country’s fans against Cameroon since their World Cup play-off in March.
The man, Algerian social media personality Said Mamouni, later published a video on YouTube effectively confirming Eto’o’s suspicions, and saying he was at a Qatari police station to file a complaint against Eto’o.
“I asked him how is Bakary Gassama (the referee from the African World Cup play-off) and if he gave him a bribe. He then hit me and destroyed both my camera and mic,” Mamouni said.
“I will take my rights here in Qatar as it is a state of law. He did hit me in the chest and the face and in my elbow.”
Eto’o has represented Qatar’s World Cup organising committee as a global legacy ambassador since 2019.
“I would like to apologise for losing my temper and reacting in a way that does not match my personality,” he said.