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Ronaldo’s World Cup dream ends in tears

Cristiano Ronaldo’s great ambition to lift the World Cup for Portugal looks over after the great player’s wretched tournament ended in dismal anti-climax.

December 11, 2022
11 December 2022

There will be no World Cup title for Cristiano Ronaldo in what was likely his last appearance on soccer’s biggest stage.

After being on the bench at the start for the second straight match on Saturday, Ronaldo couldn’t help Portugal fight back against Morocco, losing 1-0 in the quarter-finals.

All that was left for the 37-year-old Ronaldo was to walk off the field in tears.

He came on as a substitute early in the second half with his team already losing.

He replaced midfielder Ruben Neves in the 51st minute for his 196th international men’s appearance, the most of all-time by any player along with Kuwait forward Badr Al-Mutawa.

But he won’t get the chance to earn a new landmark at this tournament. 

Playing in his fifth and likely final World Cup, he had also been on the bench to start in the round of 16 against Switzerland, making a rare appearance as a substitute.

Morocco took the lead on Saturday with a header by Youssef En-Nesyri in the 42nd minute.

Ronaldo was among the first substitutions made by Portugal coach Fernando Santos and — after receiving the captain’s armband from defender Pepe — rushed onto the field and started cheering on his teammates. 

As time kept running out, he also raised his arms toward the Portugal fans — heavily outnumbered by the Moroccans — and asked for their support.

He did help increase the intensity of the Portugal attack which had struggled to get past the well-organised Moroccan defence, immediately creating an opportunity with a cross into the area.

He also set up a shot by Joao Felix in the 82nd, but his teammate’s strike was saved, along with his own last-gasp effort in stoppage time.

As he walked off the field after the final whistle, he’d started crying by the time he entered the tunnel into the locker rooms.

Some Moroccan players had gone to console him, but there were no Portugal teammates by him as he walked off. Most had stayed on the field and went towards the Portugal fans to thank them for their support.

Coach Santos patted Ronaldo’s back as he passed by him near the sideline.

Ronaldo had said before the World Cup that he did not plan to retire from the Portuguese national team after the tournament in Qatar, and that he intended to play at least at the 2024 European Championship.

But who knows what will happen after he ended this World Cup with eight goals all told in the tournament, still one shy of Eusebio’s record with Portugal.

Goncalo Ramos, who scored a hat-trick on Tuesday in Portugal’s 6-1 win over Switzerland in his first start for Portugal, was again selected ahead of him.

Ronaldo had been left out of the line-up against the Swiss after Santos expressed frustration about his team captain’s attitude in the previous game.

Ronaldo was coming off lacklustre performances in the group stage, though he scored in the 3-2 win over Ghana to become the first player to score in five World Cups.

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