World Cup 2022 briefing: Day 18
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World Cup pundits Gary Neville and Roy Keane disagreed over Cristiano Ronaldo after the former Manchester United striker was dropped by Portugal for their 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16. Ronaldo’s replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored the tournament’s first hat-trick as boss Fernando Santos was vindicated in his call to leave the 37-year-old out.
Neville has warned Ronaldo that he is facing the issue of both his former employers United and his national team playing better football without him. “I worry about the influence he will have on other players when he refuses to be part of a team,” Neville said in a chat with Keane and Micah Richards for Sky Bet.
“Ronaldo is better than that. The biggest problem is that his managers at Portugal and Manchester United thought they were better without Ronaldo in the team, and he’s finding that difficult to come to terms with.
“Portugal’s best performance of the tournament, the 6-1 win over Switzerland, was without him – and they looked much more mobile. Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes really came alive. This reminds me of United – they are better when he is not in the team.”
Keane however did not agree, and reminded Neville of how United and Juventus have done since ousting the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. “They [Portugal] had a good result,” Keane admitted. “United, what have United [done]? What happens is the team does well without Ronaldo it’s: ‘We’re better off without him’, I hate that rubbish.
“Are footballers supposed to be perfect? Cristiano Ronaldo had this attitude 10 years ago, but the following game he would score a hat trick, and he was 27 – everyone would forgive him. People say that he makes teams worse – Juventus haven’t done anything since he left them a couple of years ago.
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“Against Switzerland, the Portugal manager made a correct decision to replace Ronaldo with someone who offered more mobility up front. He [Ramos] scores a hat trick, and everyone looks straight to Ronaldo. I always thought there could be a chance that Ronaldo wouldn’t start a World Cup knockout game for Portugal – he’s 37!”
Ronaldo has scored just one goal at the World Cup, a penalty in the 3-2 opening victory over Ghana. Ramos, Fernandes and Rafael Leao have all scored more goals than the legendary forward in Qatar, and questions have been raised over whether he will return to the starting lineup to face Morocco in the quarter-final on Saturday.
In the 6-1 demolition of Switzerland, Portugal looked more like a free-flowing side as Santos also left Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo on the bench and named a more offensive midfield of William Carvalho, Otavio and Bernardo Silva.
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