It was possibly the last World Cup match for the 37-year-old Ronaldo, and probably his last chance to win football’s biggest prize.
When it mattered most, he could not grasp the kind of soccer magic that has made him one of the greatest players of all time.
Ronaldo was Dropped from the starting lineup for the second straight match on Saturday. The five-time Player of the Year came on as a substitute in the second half with his team already trailing, but his one real chance was easily saved by the opposition goalkeeper. Morocco finally defeated the Portuguese 1-0 Became the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.
It was a sad end to the day for Ronaldo as he made his 196th international appearance, tied with Kuwaiti forward Badr Al-Mutawa for the most in the men’s game. He leaves Qatar as the only player to score in five World Cup appearances, but remains with eight goals in the tournament, one shy of Eusebio’s record. Portugal,
Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in men’s international soccer with 118 goals, didn’t say anything about his future after the match, going straight from the locker room to the team bus. He stated before the World Cup that he did not plan to retire from the national team, and that he planned to play at least through the 2024 European Championship in Germany – helping Portugal win its only major title at Euro 2016. Eight years after helping
Ronaldo was first relegated to the bench in the Round of 16 against Switzerland, making an appearance as a substitute. Goncalo Ramos, who replaced him in that match, scored a hat-trick in a 6–1 victory.
On Saturday, Ramos was again selected ahead of Ronaldo.
“No regrets,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos Told not to start Ronaldo, “Cristiano is a great player, he came when we thought it was necessary. We have no regrets.”
After receiving the captain’s armband from a Portugal defender pepe Ronaldo reached the ground in the 51st minute and started encouraging his teammates. As time ran down, he raised his arms towards the Portugal fans – outnumbering those from Morocco – and asked for their support.
Ronaldo helped raise the intensity of Portugal’s attack which struggled to overcome Morocco’s well-organised defence. He immediately created an opportunity with a cross into the area, but lost possession shortly afterwards. He also had a shot by João Félix in the 82nd, but his teammate’s effort was saved. Then Ronaldo fired a last gasping shot in stoppage time that was never a real threat.
Ronaldo, who has never scored in the knockout stages of the World Cup, hurriedly walked off the field after the final whistle and was crying as he entered the locker room in the tunnel.
Some Moroccan players went to console him, but when he left Portugal had no teammate. Most of them stayed on the field at Al Thumama Stadium and thanked the Portugal fans for their support.
As Ronaldo approached the sideline, it appeared that a fan tried to approach him but was quickly whisked away.
Santos then patted Ronaldo on the back, possibly for the last time.
Ronaldo was left out of the starting lineup against the Swiss after Santos expressed his disappointment about his team captain’s attitude in the previous match. South Korea, Santos later said that Ronaldo was “not happy” that he was being exposed, but that he never threatened to leave the World Cup because of the decision.
Ronaldo’s performances were lacking in the group stage, although he did score in a 3–2 win. Ghana Became the first player to score in five World Cups. He has played in every edition of the tournament since 2006.
It has been a turbulent few weeks for Ronaldo in the World Cup elimination, with repercussions starting with an explosive interview with Piers Morgan and ending with the termination of his contract. manchester united and rumors of playing for Saudi club Al Nassr.
Portugal was seeking to make the World Cup semi-finals for the third time, having finished third in 1966 and fourth in 2006. The team had not progressed past the round of 16 since that tournament in Germany 16 years earlier.
The next chance to win the golden trophy will come four years later at the 2026 World Cup in North America, but it will likely be without Ronaldo in the team.