World Cup in Qatar, Day 17: Ronaldo substitute Ramos shoots Portugal to victory against Switzerland - Morocco throws Spain out

With his best tournament performance to date and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in an unfamiliar wildcard role, Portugal made it into the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.

World Cup in Qatar, Day 17: Ronaldo substitute Ramos shoots Portugal to victory against Switzerland - Morocco throws Spain out

With his best tournament performance to date and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in an unfamiliar wildcard role, Portugal made it into the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2006. Coach Fernando Santos' team won 6-1 (2-0) against the disappointing Switzerland at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday after a convincing performance. Gonçalo Ramos, who replaced Ronaldo in the starting XI, scored with a hat-trick (17th/51st/67th minute), substitute captain Pepe (33rd), BVB professional Raphael Guerreiro (55th) and Rafael Leão (90th 2). Goals for the 2016 European champions. Ronaldo only came on in the 73rd minute.

Manuel Akanji's goal (58th) was not enough for Switzerland in front of 83,720 spectators, the Swiss were eliminated for the third time in a row in the World Cup round of 16. Portugal meet Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday (4:00 p.m.) after surprisingly defeating Spain on penalties.

The big question before the game was: will Santos actually do without Ronaldo? The 68-year-old decided to do so, putting the superstar on the bench and giving the 21-year-old Ramos a chance instead. The day before, Santos had reprimanded Ronaldo, who has been in the spotlight for days because of the allegedly imminent move to the Saudi club Al-Nassr, for his frustration with the replacement against South Korea. The 37-year-old was not in Portugal's starting XI for the first time since 2008 and after 31 games in a major tournament.

And Santos' 'strategic' decision quickly paid off after a cautious start from both sides. After a good quarter of an hour, Ramos from Benfica Lisbon hit the goal corner from an acute angle, Swiss keeper Yann Sommer did not look good. Pepe, almost twice his age, then headed in from a corner to make it 2-0. At 39 years and 283 days, he is now the oldest goalscorer in a knockout game at a World Cup.

Ronaldo cheered with his team-mates in his substitute shirt, and the non-club attacking player watched the rest of the game from the substitutes' bench, mostly motionless or biting his fingernails. As soon as Ronaldo was shown on the big video screen, a murmur went through the almost 90,000 spectator capacity of the World Cup final stadium. In the middle of the second half, the fans chanted for their idol to come on - and Coach Santos fulfilled their wish a little later. But a supposed Ronaldo goal to make it 6-1 was ruled out due to offside (84').

Even before the superstar came on, Portugal showed by far their best performance at this World Cup. Playful, sure of the ball and with beautiful combinations, the Iberians dismantled the Swiss defense. Shortly before the break, Ramos could have scored his second goal, but Sommer was strong against the youngster (43rd).

The opponent, praised by national coach Murat Yakin as "one of the best Swiss national teams" before the tournament, was largely unregistered. A free kick from Xherdan Shaqiri next to the goal (30') and a header from Remo Freuler (38'), which Portugal's Diogo Dalot saved on the line for keeper Diogo Costa, were the only chances at first. The Confederates were particularly vulnerable on their right side after Mainz's Edimilson Fernandes was brought in for his club colleague Silvan Widmer who had a cold.

And Portugal didn't have enough. In the second half, too, the 2006 World Cup fourth-placed forward continued to play. Again the strong Ramos through the legs of Sommer and Guerreiro with his first goal of the tournament scored against the now defensively overwhelmed Swiss. The 1: 4 by the former Dortmund player Akanji changed nothing at the end of the game, especially since Ramos even scored his third goal a little later. Leão put the finishing touch with a fine flick in added time.

The surprise team Morocco also defeated former world champions Spain in Qatar and are now in the quarter-finals of a football World Cup for the first time. After 120 exciting but goalless minutes, the North Africans won 3-0 on penalties on Tuesday. Their Sevilla goalkeeper Bono saved two penalties in front of 44,667 spectators at Doha's Education City stadium, while Spaniard Pablo Sarabia hit the post.

Morocco is only the fourth African country to make it into the top eight teams at a World Cup: only Ghana in 2010, Senegal in 2002 and Cameroon in 1990 had previously done so. In the preliminary round of this tournament, the team of Bayern professional Noussair Mazraoui and former German U21 national player Abdelhamid Sabiri has already left Croatia, second in the World Cup, and Belgium, third in the World Cup, behind. The Spaniards, on the other hand, had already failed on penalties in the 2018 World Cup round of 16 (against Russia) and in the 2021 European Championship semi-finals (against Italy). With the 2-1 defeat in the last group game, Spain had already raised doubts as to whether they would really be among the greats of this tournament.

As at the start of the tournament, the Spaniards stormed with Dani Olmo from RB Leipzig, Marco Asensio from Real Madrid and Ferran Torres from FC Barcelona. And they played in their light blue third jerseys against a vociferous Moroccan majority in the stands, who mercilessly booed the Iberians. Morocco pulled far back with a tight five-man line in midfield in front of a four-man defence. A controversial free kick, kicked just over the bar by ex-Dortmunder Achraf Hakimi, was the first offensive action worth mentioning.

The well-known dangerous right side of the outsider with Paris professional Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech from Chelsea covered veteran Jordi Alba in particular as a returnee in the Spanish starting XI. Before the break, La Roja looked in vain for gaps in the North Africans' defence. Young stars Gavi and Pedri struggled in attacking midfield. Only Asensio with a shot at the side netting frightened the Moroccans.

Regardless of how the game went, Gavi made a remarkable mark: The super talent from FC Barcelona is now the youngest starting XI player in a knockout duel at a World Cup since Pelé in 1958. The legendary Brazilian was then when his team beat hosts Sweden 5-2 , 17 years and 249 days old. Gavi now appeared at 18 years and 123 days. At the same time, 34-year-old captain Sergio Busquets drew level with Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos in his 17th World Cup appearance for Spain.

The Moroccans were increasingly bold: Full-back Noussair Mazraoui from FC Bayern with a sharp shot and Nayef Aguerd with a header created a threat to Unai Simon's goal. Even after the break, coach Walid Regragui's team did an enormous amount to ensure that their country's sixth appearance at the World Cup did not end that evening.

Meanwhile, Spain's head coach Luis Enrique kept grimacing on the sidelines as the 2021 European Championship semi-finalists' attacks faltered. An indirect free-kick from a tight angle then saw Morocco goalkeeper Bono raise his fists as Olmo fired. Alvaro Morata then came on with a recommendation of three World Cup goals in Qatar as fresh striker for the drained Gavi.

Substitute Nico Williams also increased the pressure, especially since the Moroccans lost half their defense in the final stages of regulation time: Munich's Mazraoui and West Ham professional Nayef Aguerd were unable to continue playing. But the Moroccans continued to fight valiantly and were lucky when Spain's Pablo Sarabia hit the post in extra-time injury. The Spaniards then failed due to their nerves in the penalty shoot-out.

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