All these guys know the pressure. They have played or are playing for a club at Real Madrid, Manchester United or Manchester City. But Cristiano Ronaldo has broad shoulders and in the selection it is he who has taken the light and the responsibility for 15 years. Not since Tuesday. The star started on the bench against Switzerland and only came into play in the last fifteen minutes. Goal scorer and author of a great performance, central defender Pepe (39) then gave him back the captain’s armband as a reward.
But after the game Pepe also remembered that the collective came before the individuality, however strong and symbolic they may be. “It was a coach’s choice and we have to respect our coach’s decision,” he told Portuguese public television RTP. “+ Cris+ knows very well, and the coach has said it very clearly, that the most important thing here is + us +. And if it is…”
In fact, the result against Switzerland (6-1) was spectacular, with a totally liberated team and a varied and inspired attacking game. “That’s what was planned. That’s what we wanted. We wanted a team that played with a lot of flexibility and we played very well,” said Fernando Santos.
On Thursday during midfielder Otavio’s press conference, 48 hours before the quarter-final against Morocco, questions about Ronaldo were linked. “Ronaldo is a model and he is unique. But Gonçalo Ramos (author of a hat-trick against Switzerland, editor’s note) played very well and everyone is ready to play,” explained the Porto midfielder.
“I consider myself one of the 26 players who arrived at the World Cup very united. We think we can go very far and nothing can tear us apart,” he added. If the five-time Ballon d’Or is another substitute against Morocco on Saturday, some executives will have to take on even more responsibility.
This is particularly the case with Bruno Fernandes. Despite declining statistics (three goals and three assists in 20 games), he is Manchester United’s offensive leader this season. He also aims to stay with Portugal. He is the second best scorer in activity, far behind “CR7”, with 13 performances in 52 selections. “We had won the first games with Cristiano in the XI. He does his job, he contributes, he is happy with the result, because everyone’s goal is to get as far as possible. I don’t think so. people should talk about why he plays or not because if he plays and we win, nobody talks about it. If he plays and we lose, everyone talks about it,” he said.
Another attacking midfielder, Bernardo Silva, a key part of Manchester City’s stellar scoring machine, has also been called up to win back some of Ronaldo’s attack. Despite his 77 caps, the attacking midfielder is statistically underweight in major tournaments. In Qatar, he still hasn’t scored or provided an assist. But that could change on Saturday against Morocco.