Portugal pillaged their way into the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup after a monumental 6-1 win over Switzerland in a statement performance from Fernando Santos’ A Seleçao that was bereft of the presence of iconic figure Cristiano Ronaldo, and instead, was headlined by the youthful exuberance of SL Benfica starlet Gonçalo Ramos.
But Ronaldo was not the only Portuguese star axed from the matchday XI by Santos after Manchester City full-back João Cancelo did not feature from the first whistle, with Santos keeping faith in Manchester United right-back Diogo Dalot while Borussia Dortmund left-back Raphaël Guerreiro was given the nod over the versatile City man.
There was no reported injury suffered by the 28-year-old, who, in truth, has not been at his best for the Portuguese when he has featured of late while both Dalot and Guerreiro have taken their chances with both hands on the back of a combined one goal and three assists added directly contributed from either side of the back four.
According to reports from Portuguese news outlet Record (cited by Sports Witness), is said to now feel undervalued and misunderstood by Santos.
It is certainly feasible to suggest that Santos was never going to utilize Cancelo in the same manner that City boss Pep Guardiola so often does in the Premier League when it comes to allowing the right-back to regularly make underlapping runs in the middle and final thirds of the pitch to aid in build-up play as well as chance creation, and in that light, perhaps - though a stretch - it can be said that Santos does not “understand” the player.
The reality, however, is that for how Santos has gone about utilizing his right-backs, Dalot has performed to a level that justified his inclusion in the XI against Switzerland.
Record’s report also suggests that City teammates Rúben Dias and Bernardo Silva have tried to lift his spirits during the current situation but after Portugal’s stunning performance against Murat Yakin’s Nati, Cancelo may have to accept being consigned to a spot on the bench once again as Santos will now have little-to-no reason to change a formula that produced what was arguably the best overall performance of any nation this winter in Qatar.