Santos insists Ronaldo relationship unchanged as he hailed captain´s ´great example´

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Portugal coach Fernando Santos insists his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo is unchanged despite dropping the captain for Tuesday’s 6-1 win over Switzerland at the World Cup.

Ronaldo was benched after Santos expressed his disappointment with the striker’s attitude following his substitution during last week’s defeat to South Korea.

Santos said on Monday the matter had been resolved internally, but Ronaldo was then dropped to the bench for the clash at Lusail Stadium, starting a major-tournament match among the substitutes for the first time since 2008 (31 games).

A fan poll on the website of Portuguese newspaper A Bola suggested 70 per cent of Portugal fans wanted Ronaldo out of the team, and the Selecao went on to produce one of their best performances at a major tournament in years.

Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo in the attack and had a hand in four goals, including a hat-trick, but Santos did not commit to keeping faith in the Benfica prospect for the quarter-final against Morocco.

Santos told reporters: “That’s still something that has to be defined [who starts in the next game]. I already answered in yesterday’s press conference [regarding Ronaldo]; there is no problem between us.

“I have a strong relationship with him, I always have. I have known him since he was young and at Sporting [CP], and then it started to develop in the national team.

“This relationship only developed. We’ve been friends for many years, things don’t affect us.

“I already explained everything was resolved. I said that and I repeat that now. This is something that’s finished and resolved.

“How he came in with a lot of will, he set an example as a great captain.”

In scoring his hat-trick, Ramos became the first player to net three times on his first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.

Similarly, it only took him 17 minutes to do what Ronaldo has never managed: score in a World Cup knockout game.

For most, Ramos starting the quarter-final clash would be a simple decision to make, but Santos intends to keep people guessing.

“Obviously I have my ways to observes things, I always have,” he continued. “The players we have in this position obviously have many different characteristics.

“Andre [Silva] plays more advanced, Cristiano is more fixed, he plays in a determined area. Goncalo is dynamic.

“That’s what he ended up showing us, but it was nothing new because he came on in two other games.

“I have three players I fully trust and for each match I will use what I think is the right strategy, as I have always done in my career.”

Tuesday’s success was Portugal’s biggest ever victory in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, with it the first time they have scored six beyond the group stage.

It was a truly rampant performance, though Santos was particularly pleased that his team did not get carried away with the euphoria.

“It’s exactly what I said [to the players]; when we are euphoric, I think we can go beyond what we should do in a match.

“We can end up having a bit too much fun, to use that expression, and football is not fun. Yes, you have to play, have fun in the field, but too much fun is not appropriate.

“In this aspect, in terms of how serious they were, they were fantastic.”

Portugal will face Morocco in their quarter-final at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.



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