LUSAIL, Qatar -- Portugal booked their place in the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time for 16 years with a impressive 6-1 win over Switzerland despite coach Fernando Santos deciding to bench Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo's replacement, 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos, more than justified his selection with a hat-trick while veteran defender Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and substitute Rafael Leao also found the net. Manuel Akanji got Switzerland's goal, though it was nothing more than a consolation.
Victory for Portugal sets up a quarterfinal tie with Morocco, who beat Spain on penalties earlier on Tuesday, and after such a convincing win in the last-16, they will fancy their chances of reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2006.
1. Fernando Santos gets big calls right as Portugal make huge statement
Portugal manager Fernando Santos made two big decisions with his team selection, and he couldn't have asked for a better end result. The most surprising, undoubtedly, was replacing Cristiano Ronaldo with Ramos -- the latter had enjoyed just 33 minutes of international before kick-off -- but the Benfica striker repaid his faith with three goals, the first of which was a shot fired into the top corner from an angle so tight that there was a moment of stunned silence in the stadium before Portugal fans realised it had gone in.
It went almost unnoticed amid the noise around Ronaldo, but Santos also dropped Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo and instead picked Diogo Dalot at right-back and Guerreiro on the left. And as if Ramos, just two years old when Ronaldo made his international debut, hadn't done enough to vindicate Santos' management, Dalot provided the assist for Portugal's third goal -- scored by Ramos -- before Guerreiro got the fourth.
It was an attacking display that looked more fluid and free-flowing in Ronaldo's absence, one that might also make Portugal genuine contenders to lift the trophy. World Cup winners usually also get a few quirks of fortune along the way and in a strange twist, Portugal's second goal was scored by 39-year-old Pepe, who probably wouldn't have even been playing had Danilo Pereira not suffered a rib injury in the first game against Ghana.
2. Ronaldo will be a bit-part player for the rest of the World Cup
Sat on the bench at a World Cup for the first time in his career, Ronaldo will have realised pretty quickly that it was a lose-lose situation. Either Switzerland would win and he would bow out of his fifth and final World Cup, or Portugal would go through and Santos would be unlikely to change a winning team for their quarterfinal against Morocco on Saturday.
Santos cannot drop Ramos after scoring a hat-trick and even if he hadn't made such a blistering individual impact, Portugal still looked far more fluent without Ronaldo in the team. Ramos' finishing was clinical, but he also chased and pressed from the front while constantly looking to run in behind the Swiss defenders. When Ronaldo came on in the 73rd minute, his teammates immediately began looking to get the ball wide and throw crosses into the box for Ronaldo to win in the air.
Even at 37 years old, Ronaldo is still a wonderful athlete and incredible goalscorer, so much so that you wouldn't bet against him coming on against Morocco and grabbing a winner. But his role now is as an impact substitute. It could still be a vital one in tight, tense knockout games, but Santos can only hope he accepts it without complaint.
3. Heavy defeat not really reflective of Switzerland's World Cup
Switzerland were hoping for a bigger step forward in Qatar after winning their first knockout tie since 1938 at the last European Championships, but on the evidence of this World Cup, they are not far away from regularly reaching the last eight of major tournaments.
Their qualifying campaign was built on a defence that conceded just twice in eight games, but they were undone here by a piece of magic from Ramos before falling asleep at a set piece to fall behind 2-0, It was always going to be a long way back from there, though in truth they fell apart in the second half.
It didn't help that, in the first half especially, they couldn't get the ball to Breel Embolo with the Monaco striker having just 13 touches in the first 45 minutes.
Switzerland have a popular coach in Murat Yakin and even though he will have to refresh the squad soon -- goalkeeper Yann Sommer and forward Xherdan Shaqiri are 33 and 31 respectively -- he has players like Embolo (25) and Manuel Akanji (27) who will be key parts of the next cycle.
The Swiss haven't reached a World Cup quarterfinal since 1954 and despite coming up short this time, they will hope to end that streak soon. Coming through a group that also included Brazil, Serbia and Cameroon should be viewed as a positive in spite of what happened on Tuesday in Lusail.
Portugal (4-3-3): Diogo Costa 7; Diogo Dalot 8, Pepe 7, Ruben Dias 7, Raphael Guerreiro 8; Otavio 7, William Carvalho 7, Bernardo Silva 8; Bruno Fernandes 8, Goncalo Ramos 9, Joao Felix 8.
Subs: Ricardo Horta 6, Cristiano Ronaldo 6, Vitinha 6, Ruben Neves 6, Rafael Leao 7.
Switzerland (3-1-4-2): Yann Sommer 6; Manuel Akanji 6, Fabian Schar 4, Ricardo Rodriguez 6; Granit Xhaka 5; Edimilson Fernandes 6, Djibril Sow 5, Remo Freuler 5, Ruben Vargas 5; Xherdan Shaqiri 5, Breel Embolo 5.
Subs: Eray Comert 5, Denis Zakaria 6, Haris Seferovic 6, Noah Okafor 6, Ardon Jashari 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Goncalo Ramos, Portugal.
Picked ahead of Ronaldo despite only making his international debut in November, he scored an elegant hat-trick.
WORST: Fabian Schar, Switzerland
He was booked for a horribly late challenge on Joao Felix before being substituted at half-time.
Highlights and notable moments
Ramos was a constant menace in attack for Portugal and got the chance midway through the second half to complete a superb hat-trick.
HAT TRICK FOR RAMOS— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 6, 2022
Gonçalo Ramos nets the first hat trick of the 2022 FIFA World Cup 🔥🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/YYEzJxZepu
Ominously for Portugal's manager Santos, the biggest cheer of the night was arguably when sulking superstar Ronaldo finally emerged from the bench with the result well beyond doubt.
With a 5-1 lead over Switzerland, Ronaldo comes into the game for Portugal 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/f5G31kesql— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 6, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
-- This is the second time both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are at the quarterfinal stage of a World Cup; in 2006, Argentina was eliminated in the quarterfinals and Portugal finished fourth
-- Goncalo Ramos (POR): 3 goals (17′, 51′, 67′); first hat trick of the 2022 World Cup. He's also the second-youngest man to score a hat-trick in a FIFA World Cup KO Stage game (21 years, 169 days) after Pelé (17 years, 244 days in 1958 semifinal) and the fourth Portuguese man to score a hat trick in a World Cup match
-- Switzerland: winless (0-7-1 W-L-D) in 8 straight World Cup knockout stage games since only such win came in 1934 Round of 16 vs Netherlands
-- Switzerland: tied for largest defeat in a World Cup match (lost 5-0 in the 1966 FIFA World Cup against West Germany)
-- Cristiano Ronaldo (POR): 22nd career FIFA World Cup match, tied for 5th (with 3 other players including Diego Maradona) on most FIFA WC apps list
Portugal: The huge win means that Fernando Santos & Co. will now prepare for their quarterfinal match against Morocco this Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium (10 a.m. ET).
Switzerland: They're heading home.