Portugal has laid down a gauntlet at the 2022 World Cup as the quarterfinals are set to kick off on Friday after a 6-1 thrashing of Switzerland at Lusail Iconic Stadium.
On a night when rivals Spain were ousted from the competition after a penalty shootout loss to Morocco, Portuguese manager Fernando Santos made a huge call in his matchday XI when he dropped Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench in favor of 21-year-old SL Benfica hotshot Gonçalo Ramos despite A Seleçao’s future at the tournament at stake.
Ramos would end up delivering in a manner that no one could have dreamed of after his form at club level translated expertly into Santo’s system after he bagged a hat-trick while leading the line despite his tenure age, but in doing so, Ramos equaled a 26-year-old statistical milestone that dates back to the 1994 World Cup.
Though Russia failed to make it out of the group stage when the United States hosted the global spectacle, Spanish-based striker Oleg Salenko had the summer of his career when he scored six of Russia’s seven goals of the tournament, including a five-goal performance in a 6-1 win over Rodger Milla’s Cameroon at Stanford Stadium in California.
No other player has achieved four or more goal involvements in a single World Cup match since Salenko before Ramos’ achievements tonight, with the young striker also bringing goals to the knockout stage in service of his country; something Ronaldo has never achieved during a World Cup run.
With their quarterfinal date against Morocco set, the new face of Portuguese football in Qatar could once again prove decisive as the tournament progresses.