World Cup Daily: With Ronaldo watching on, a new hero emerges for Portugal


After each matchday of the 2022 FIFA World Cup,’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events and look ahead to the next day’s slate of games.                 

Here’s what happened on Tuesday in Qatar, in case you missed it…                 


Morocco 0, Spain 0 (Morocco wins 3-0 in a shootout) in Al Rayyan: Match report || Match stats

Portugal 6, Switzerland 1 in Lusail: Match report || Match stats

Quarter-finals matchup: Morocco vs. Portugal in Doha (Dec. 10 at 10:00 a.m. ET)

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A new Portuguese hero emerges as Ronaldo watches on

Social media blew up on Tuesday roughly one hour before kickoff of the Portugal-Switzerland match, when the starting lineups were released and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was listed as being on the bench. It marked the first time that Ronaldo wasn’t in the starting lineup for Portugal at a major tournament since 2008 (also against Switzerland), ending a 31-game streak.

The decision to bench Ronaldo came roughly 24 hours after manager Fernando Santos publicly criticized his captain over what he felt was his poor attitude after being subbed out in Portugal’s last game.

Benching a player of Ronaldo’s experience and quality was a bold move by Santos, especially in a knockout game against a Switzerland team that has battled Portugal closely over the last several years. In the end, it didn’t turn out to be a gamble at all, but rather a smart move by Santos, who started Benfica forward Gonçalo Ramos in Ronaldo’s place.

Ramos, 21, only had 34 minutes of international experience to his credit before kickoff, and had yet to start at this World Cup. He made up for lost time, though, bagging the tournament’s first hat trick and collecting an assist in only his fourth appearance for his country.

Ramos set the tone for Portugal in its emphatic 6-1 win, scoring on an audacious shot from a tight angle early on. After only 17 minutes, the youngster had scored more goals for Portugal in the World Cup knockout stages than Ronaldo had in 514 minutes of action across five World Cup appearances. Ramos was eventually subbed off in the 73rd minute as a round of thunderous applause echoed throughout Lusail Iconic Stadium. His replacement? Ronaldo himself, whose exile by Santos was commuted when Portugal was up by five goals and the result was beyond doubt. 

Photographers still focused their lenses on Ronaldo during his brief cameo, while fans in the terraces shrieked every time he touched the ball and sang out his name. But it was his young apprentice who powered Portugal into the next round, emerging as the country’s newest hero. 

Morocco flying the flag for Africa at this World Cup

Morocco’s magical run in Qatar continues after a heroic effort on Tuesday that saw the Atlas Lions claw back the challenge of mighty Spain, the second European giant to have been humbled at the feet of the Africans at this tournament. Morocco is the fourth African team – and the first Arab nation – to reach the quarterfinals of a men’s World Cup after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

In only their second World Cup knockout game (the other was in 1986 in Mexico), the Moroccans frustrated the stylish Spanish with their defensive organization for 120 minutes of regulation and extra time before goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who plays in Spain’s La Liga for Sevilla, emerged as the hero by making two big saves in the penalty shootout.

It was Achraf Hakimi, another Moroccan player with Spanish connections (he was born in Spain and previously played for Real Madrid), who converted the decisive penalty. In doing so, Spain fell victim, exactly like Belgium did in the group stage, to an unassuming Morocco side that is short on star power but long on fighting spirit and grit.

Spain carried the overwhelming majority of the play, enjoying a whopping 77 per cent possession and completing more than three times as many passes as Morocco (1,019 vs. 305). But for all of their statistical domination, the Spanish were bereft of attacking ideas in the final third of the pitch and couldn’t find a way to break down the Moroccan resistance. 


In the 17th minute, Portugal’s João Félix received the ball off a throw-in and played it into the box for Goncalo Ramos. The 21-year-old forward took a quick touch as he turned away from a Swiss defender and then hit a thunderbolt of a shot from a tight angle past goalkeeper Yann Sommer and into the top left corner of the net. 


Morocco fullback Achraf Hakimi, born and raised in Madrid, dumped Spain out of the World Cup with his Panenka during the penalty shootout and then celebrated with his mother. 

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“We were unable to score … So, no matter how much we say that we deserved to win for the chances we created and for playing more in their area, it is not going to change anything. The only thing left for us is to accept that we have been eliminated.” – Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon 


• Sergio Busquets is now tied with Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos as Spain’s most-capped players in World Cup history.       

• Spain’s Gavi (18 years and 123 days) is the youngest player to start a knockout match at the men’s World Cup since Pele (17 years and 249 days) in the 1958 final.    

• This was Spain’s fifth World Cup penalty shootout, the joint-most of any nation (tied with Argentina).

• Portugal defender Pepe is the oldest men’s player to score in a knockout game at the World Cup (39 years and 283 days). 

• Switzerland has not won a knockout round game at the men’s World Cup since 1938. 

• Bruno Fernandes has been directly involved in five goals in three games at this World Cup (two goals and three assists). It’s the highest number of goal involvements by a Portuguese player since the 1966 tournament (10 for Eusébio and six for José Torres).

Stats courtesy of Opta                 


1) Goncalo Ramos (Portugal): A hat trick and an assist in only his fourth appearance for his country. Nothing more needs to be said. 

2) João Félix (Portugal): Somewhat overshadowed by Ramos’s breakout performance was the Atletico Madrid winger who collected two assists and ran rampant against the stagnant Swiss. 

3) Yassine Bounou (Morocco): The Montreal-born goalkeeper made two saves in the penalty shootout to lift his country to victory over Spain and send it through to the quarter-finals.  


The quarter-finals kick off with Croatia taking on Brazil in Al Rayyan (10 a.m. ET) in a match that will undoubtedly be the stiffest test either nation has faced to date at this World Cup. Except for the game against Canada, the Croatians haven’t really shifted into second gear in Qatar, yet they have made it this far. So, it’ll be interesting to see how they manage in going toe-to-toe with a Brazilian side that is coming off a rampant win in the round of 16.

The second match of the day sees the Netherlands take on Argentina in Lusail (2 p.m. ET), with Lionel Messi looking to keep alive hopes of winning his first World Cup in his final appearance in the tournament. 

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found here.

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