Portugal 6-1 Switzerland: Player ratings as Selecao cruise into World Cup quarter-finals
By Sean Walsh
Portugal put in their best display of the World Cup so far in a scintillating 6-1 win against Switzerland in the last 16.
Fernando Santos made the bold decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo for Tuesday's tie and the Selecao looked much more fluid in attack because of it.
There was initially so little to report on during the opening 15 minutes that a Mexican wave was started at the vast Lusail Stadium by bored fans before the game's first chance.
But that opening came soon after when Goncalo Ramos - starting in place of Ronaldo and having only played 35 minutes of international football prior to Tuesday night - managed to turn away from Fabian Schar and find enough space to throttle the ball with his weaker left foot, squeezing into the roof of the net at Yann Sommer's near post.
Ramos nearly turned provider for Otavio with Portugal's next chance, teeing up the Porto midfielder with a deft flick backwards, but his bobbling shot was held by Sommer.
Portugal were now playing with freedom and confidence, with Joao Felix's clever ball over the top met by Ramos, who managed again to get a quick shot away, though this time it was much tamer and dealt with by Sommer.
Breel Embolo was proving troublesome for the Selecao to keep quiet at the other end, bulldozing his way through Portugal's half and being completely manhandled by Ruben Dias. Xherdan Shaqiri's subsequent and impressive free-kick from 25 yards was tipped round the post by Diogo Costa.
But Portugal doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark when Pepe, captaining the side in Ronaldo's absence, rose highest to head home from a Bruno Fernandes corner. The wily centre-back became the second-oldest scorer at a World Cup behind Roger Milla.
Switzerland came close to pulling one back when an Edimilson Fernandes cross was tipped up by Costa but only into Remo Freuler's path, and the Porto goalkeeper was fortunate that the resulting header was tame and easily cleared.
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While questions were starting to be asked of Portugal defensively, they were purring in attack and Ramos should have added his second of the night when slipped through by Fernandes, only to be thwarted by the outstretched arm of Sommer.
And Ramos secured his brace shortly after half-time when he quickly got ahead of the Switzerland defence to tap in a cross from Diogo Dalot, who did well to create a yard of space with a clever skill on the byline.
Moments later, Portugal notched up their fourth. Felix carried the ball into the final third after a neat flick by Otavio and found the run of Ramos, who kept his head up and spotted a wide open Raphael Guerreiro, and he duly fired into the roof of the net.
Manuel Akanji grabbed a consolation after tapping in at the back post from a Xherdan Shaqiri corner, with Ramos ironically flicking it on at the near post and past his Portugal teammates.
The first hat-trick of the 2022 World Cup was sealed by Ramos at the end of another sweeping move, racing beyond the last line and dinking over Sommer.
After 73 minutes, Santos finally caved in to pressure from the crowd and called Ronaldo into action to the delight of a packed Lusail Stadium. His first action was to blast a free-kick straight into the wall.
Ronaldo did manage to find the back of the net, but he was laughably offside when making his run and the goal was immediately chalked off.
A forward came off the bench to net Portugal's sixth, but it was Rafael Leao instead. The Milan star cut inside off the left and wriggled a shot between Akanji and Granit Xhaka, fooling Sommer and finding the far corner to round off the evening.
Portugal player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Diogo Costa - 5/10 - Another performance with a couple of wobbles from Costa despite having little to do in way of making saves.
RB: Diogo Dalot - 8/10 - Preferred over Joao Cancelo, the Manchester United right-back shut Ruben Vargas out of the game and got an assist for his troubles.
CB: Pepe - 8/10 - The oldest scorer in the history of the World Cup knockout stages. Defended with his trademark resiliency and aggression.
CB: Ruben Dias - 6/10 - Found it hard dealing with the physicality and intelligence of Embolo, but that hardly mattered.
LB: Raphael Guerreiro - 8/10 - Enjoyed going forward and was hardly troubled by Sow. Took his goal like a veteran striker.
CM: William Carvalho - 8/10 - Won his matchup against the in-form Xhaka.
CM: Otavio - 8/10 - Came in for Ruben Neves and didn't miss a beat in midfield. His quick feet alongside the seasoned Carvalho worked a treat.
RM: Bernardo Silva - 7/10 - Flittered between the lines and opened the game up on the counter attack. Occasionally dropped into a deeper midfield role.
AM: Bruno Fernandes - 9/10 - Just like at club level, Fernandes benefitted without Ronaldo clogging up his sight-lines. Led Portugal's attacks and was always a threat, whether directly or providing for others.
LM: Joao Felix - 9/10 - On a day where Atletico Madrid's club president admitted he could leave the club, Felix put himself in the shop window with a majestic creative display coming in off the left.
CF: Goncalo Ramos - 10/10 - Silenced the doubters who suggested he shouldn't have been the man to replace Ronaldo very quickly. Bullied Switzerland with his blend of physicality and technique. Has more hat-trick goals in the World Cup knockouts than Ronaldo even has goal involvements in them.
Cristiano Ronaldo (73' for Ramos) - 5/10
Vitinha (73' for Otavio) - 6/10
Ricardo Horta (73' for Otavio) - 6/10
Ruben Neves (81' for Silva) - N/A
Rafael Leao (87' for Fernandes) - N/A
Fernando Santos - 9/10 - Made a huge, ballsy call to drop Ronaldo (finally) and it paid off.
Switzerland player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Yann Sommer - 4/10 - Couldn't do much about a lot of the goals, though made a few good saves, so, every cloud...
RB: Edimilson Fernandes - 4/10 - Did his best to wear down Felix and was one of Switzerland's better players going forward.
CB: Manuel Akanji - 3/10 - Shrunk in the spotlight and was given the runaround. Fortunate to have actually scored a goal.
CB: Fabian Schar - 2/10 - If Akanji was given the runaround, then Schar was sent all the way back to club duty with Newcastle. Weak in the air and on the floor. Hooked at the break.
LB: Ricardo Rodriguez - 4/10 - Made some vital interceptions but it was noticeable that time is catching up to Rodriguez.
CM: Remo Freuler - 3/10 - Switzerland might have stood a chance if he buried his gilt-edged chance with the score only at 2-0. Replaced quickly in the second half.
CM: Granit Xhaka - 4/10 - Tried to keep the midfield together but didn't have much luck.
RM: Djibril Sow - 2/10 - Just quite clearly isn't a winger and he provided little to the match.
AM: Xherdan Shaqiri - 3/10 - Was at least a threat from set pieces and was handed a role which suited his lack of physical mobility.
LM: Ruben Vargas - 2/10 - Another game where Vargas ran down dead ends and did little to help his team try and score goals.
CF: Breel Embolo - 6/10 - Switzerland's best outfielder by far. Tried to drag his nation into the tie but could only do so much.
Eray Comert (46' for Schar) - 4/10
Denis Zakaria (54' for Freuler) - 5/10
Haris Seferovic (54' for Sow) - 4/10
Noah Okafor (66' for Vargas) - 4/10
Ardon Jashari (89' for Embolo) - N/A
Murat Yakin - 3/10 - His side were completely outclassed, and while that's at least understandable, they did little to put up a fight.