On 6 December 2022, the Portugal national team experienced one of the most important matches in its recent history. There was no title at stake, but the country had a lot at stake after turning its back on its eternal idol, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Walking through the streets of Porto, listening to the people or watching the sports talk shows was enough to discover that the Portugal 7 is no longer the country's most coveted player. His problems at Manchester United have been transferred to the national team, where his teammates want nothing to do with a troublesome guy who even had his contract terminated during Portugal's participation in the World Cup in Qatar.
Veteran Fernando Santos sat Cristiano Ronaldo in the quarter-final against Switzerland. A time bomb was about to explode in Portugal if the coach's bold move went wrong. In his place was a 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos, a Benfica striker tipped to be the next big thing in Portuguese football until Joao Félix made the leap in quality.
Switzerland did not show up. On 17 minutes, Ramos had scored the first and on 33 minutes the incombustible Pepe rose to head home the second from Bruno Fernandes' pass. Cristiano watched it all from the bench and then from the touchline warming up with the rest of his team-mates.
In the second half, Ramos scored the third in the 51st and Guerreiro the fourth in the 55th. Switzerland had a fit of rage and made it 4-1 through Akanji but the Portuguese machine punished that goal with two more, Ramos' third from Joao Felix's pass and, in the 92nd, Leao's sixth.
The 83,000 spectators at the Lusail stadium were thrilled when Cristiano Ronaldo came on in the 74th minute. Santos could not leave the star without a team for fewer minutes because the coexistence would have been unbearable until the quarter-final against Morocco.
Now Portugal reach the decisive moment of the World Cup, a match against a team that, on paper, is less powerful, but that knew how to hold Spain to force them to play everything on penalties.
Ronaldo got the limelight he always claims after the match when he denied he was going to play in Saudi Arabia. Portugal is alert in case he returns to Sporting Portugal, although the United States also claims the eternal 7 that lives hard times even in his national team.