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World Cup: Portugal make their case without Ronaldo

Portugal made the rest of the world sit up and take notice as they hammered Switzerland 6-1 in the Round of 16 in Qatar, with Benfica forward Goncalo Ramos the unlikely hero.

The build up to the contest was unsurprisingly dominated by the demotion of Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench following his reaction to being substituted against South Korea - something boss Fernando Santos apparently did not take too kindly to.

While the cameras kept panning to the bench to capture the sullen face of the 37-year-old captain, on the field, a new star was potentially being born in the form of Ramos.

His stunning hat-trick helped Portugal to a thumping win, which now sees them sit as joint-third favourites to win the tournament at 6/1.

It also vindicated Santos' decision, as the wily old manager seeks to complete a historic Euros and World Cup double with his nation.

What: Morocco v Portugal
When: Saturday 10th December, 15:00
Where: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
How to watch: ITV1
Odds: Morocco 19/4, draw 13/5 Portugal 4/6

Ramos stuns Switzerland

A relative international rookie at just 21 years old replacing one of the greatest players of all time might not initially sound like the most sensible decision but it was one that truly paid off.

Ramos was winning just his fourth Portugal cap on Tuesday evening and was selected not just ahead of Ronaldo but also before the more experienced RB Leipzig forward Andre Silva.

However, after 17 minutes he instantly repaid the faith from his manager with a left-foot thunderbolt from a tight angle - giving the usually reliable Swiss keeper Yann Sommer absolutely no chance.

Following Pepe's bullet header on the half hour mark, Ramos got his second just after half-time to end the game as a meaningful contest as he came across the near post to stab home. 

Then, his third goal showcased more of his finishing repertoire as he dinked one over keeper Sommer.

Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao scored Portugal's other goals in what was easily their best performance of the tournament minus the star name for much of it, with the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star only coming on in the 73rd minute.

It proved that there can be life after Ronaldo and Ramos has made a very bold claim to lead the line again for their quarter-final tie against Morocco, where Portugal will need all their finishing nous considering the Atlas Lions' very sturdy defence.

Midfielder freed up with Ramos in the side

It is not just Ramos who has profited from Ronaldo's Portugal absence - arguably Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva look freshened up without the number seven in the team.

There has been a train of thought that Manchester United are a better team without Ronaldo and Fernandes becomes the main man and thrives in his absence, and some will suggest that could now also happen at international level.

Benfica forward Ramos, who scored 14 goals in 21 games for his club prior to the World Cup, was a livewire and made some great runs that were spotted by those behind him. 

Currently, he can be backed at 25/1 to have a storming end to the Qatar tournament and win the Golden Boot, which would cap off an astonishing rise to prominence.

In essence, Portugal are more of a synergistic team without Ronaldo even if they lose his obvious knack for goalscoring, and Santos seems to have struck the right balance.

Can Ronaldo still play a role?

Even though he has not been firing, it would be churlish to say Ronaldo is finished completely, and Portugal do at least have a very dangerous weapon they can utilise off the bench.

The 37-year-old's scoring record at international level is incredible, with the forward netting 118 times in 195 caps since making his debut back in 2003.

In his cameo appearance on Tuesday, there was a definite sense that Ronaldo was desperate to score and prove everyone wrong.

Even if he doesn't find his way back into the starting XI against Morocco, he could still play a big part in the game.

Morocco are likely to try and stifle Portugal and there is a chance the game could be goalless late on - who better to turn to than their record goalscorer?

However, it seems Ronaldo's fantastic career is slowly winding down and Portugal will be hoping that the young Goncalo Ramos can provide the goods going forward.

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