Why was Cristiano Ronaldo dropped by Portugal for their World Cup tie with Switzerland?

Cristiano Ronaldo - why was he benched?
Cristiano Ronaldo - why was he benched? / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

When Cristiano Ronaldo headed to the World Cup with Portugal, he was probably hoping he would dominate the headlines. He has, too. Just not in the way he would have liked.

His World Cup came to something of an unceremonious half when he was dropped from the Portugal team for the last 16 game against Switzerland.

Why did Portugal take that decision, though, and just how surprised should anyone have been?

Why was Ronaldo dropped for Portugal at the World Cup?

Ultimately, only head coach Fernando Santos knows the answer to that question, but he certainly wasn’t happy with the striker.

In Portugal’s last group game, a 2-1 defeat to South Korea, Ronaldo started but was substituted off in the second half. He was caught on camera putting his finger to his lip in a ‘ssh’ gesture and then swearing.

It was widely interpreted as a tantrum at being hauled off, although Ronaldo claimed it was directed at South Korean player Cho Gue-sung instead.

"Before my substitution, one of their players was telling me to leave quickly," Ronaldo explained after the match.

"I told him to shut up, he has no authority, he doesn’t have to say anything."

That appears to have not washed with Santos, though, who used his pre-Switzerland press conference to express his unhappiness with Ronaldo.

"Have I seen the images? Yes, I didn’t like it, not at all. I didn’t like it. I really didn’t like it. But from that moment onwards everything is finished regarding that issue. These matters are resolved behind closed doors. It’s resolved. Full stop on this matter and now everyone is focused on tomorrow’s match."

A reporter asked Santos if Ronaldo might have been stripped of the captaincy, but he wouldn’t even commit to saying he would be in the team at all.

"I only decide who is going to be captain when I reach the stadium," Santos said.

"I still don’t know what the line-up will be. That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I’m always going to do and it’s going to be the same tomorrow. The other topic is solved. We have fixed that in-house and that’s it."

Might Ronaldo have been dropped for poor performance?

It is a serious possibility. The incident with Cho may just have been a coincidence or the excuse that Santos was looking for to drop Ronaldo. He hasn't exactly been on fire at the World Cup.

Ronaldo scored in Portugal’s win over Ghana in their first game to become the first man to score at five different World Cups, but it was a highly disputed penalty that he won himself.

He was poor in the 2-0 win over Uruguay, but again hogged the headlines by trying to claim Bruno Fernandes’ opening goal when technology proved he never touched it.

It’s also worth remembering that this was all going on against the backdrop of his departure from Manchester United following a blockbuster unauthorised interview in which he heavily criticised the club.

He has, then, provided a lot of distractions and attracted a lot of damaging headlines without really delivering on the pitch, so Santos may have simply decided he has become more trouble than his contribution has been worth.