LUSAIL, Qatar — Moments after a shrill whistle referred to as time on Portugal’s resounding 6-1 victory over Switzerland, Cristiano Ronaldo walked briskly towards the Portuguese followers behind the north objective on the Lusail Stadium, after which, after applauding them, earlier than his teammates might be part of within the present of appreciation, he trudged off the sector and down a tunnel.
He had simply been demoted, benched on the World Cup for the primary time in his glittering profession. And as his teammates soared with out him, he remained the focal point. Dozens of cameramen turned their backs on Portugal’s beginning 11, and zeroed in on his expressionless face. The headline writers then targeted on him. Pundits questioned about him. Postmatch questions revolved round him.
So it was then and there, in a postgame interview zone, that Bruno Fernandes felt compelled to reply some questions.
“Do you suppose anybody likes to be on the bench?” he requested rhetorically after taking a query about Ronaldo’s response.
Even the third goalkeeper, Fernandes, argued animatedly, is “most likely not glad to be on the bench. So, you suppose Cristiano could be glad?”
“If the supervisor within the subsequent recreation put me on the bench,” he concluded, “I’d be indignant.”
His level was nicely taken. However it didn’t precisely dispel the assumptions that Ronaldo — who has reacted petulantly in latest months to a benching at Manchester United and to being substituted out of a group-stage match by Portugal — has taken poorly to being on the bench.
Bruno and Bernardo Silva each tried to guarantee the English-language media that Ronaldo had savored and contributed to an incredible group win. “He confirmed an incredible persona contained in the dressing room. And he was high-quality,” Silva mentioned.
However, he added, “in fact, generally he won’t be glad, as a result of everybody needs to play.”
Ronaldo himself, nevertheless, didn’t cease to talk with reporters, leaving his scrutinized actions open to interpretation. Cameras captured him getting into the stadium with a stern, unflinching expression. They later captured him embracing teammates after the win, however when he got here throughout 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos, who’d scored a hat trick in his stead, he wore a business-like look on his face.
Quickly thereafter, he headed towards the followers, reciprocating their applause. Pepe, a veteran defender, noticed Ronaldo and hurriedly referred to as his teammates over to affix, however by the point they may wrap up their joyous handshakes and congratulations close to midfield, Ronaldo had exited stage left with out them.
His mere presence had attracted eyes and noise all night, and in the end snatched headlines away from Ramos, whose hat trick was the primary in a World Cup knockout recreation this century.
Fernandes, talking afterward, insisted that this headline-snatching wasn’t Ronaldo’s fault. “Cristiano is probably the most well-known participant on this planet, of [all] time,” he mentioned. “Nobody is extra well-known than Cristiano — in sports activities. Not in soccer, in sports activities. It is regular that folks come to see Cristiano … I do not see any shock on that. … Cristiano is Cristiano. His title discuss by himself.”
The gamers claimed that his presence and angle weren’t inflicting issues.
“No, I do not suppose so, I do not suppose so,” Bernardo mentioned. “I believe he is serving to us immediately.”
Ramos agreed. “Actually, in our group, nobody talked about it,” the undisputed man of the match mentioned. “Cristiano, as our captain, did what he at all times does, he helped us. He inspired us.”
Bruno, when pressed about why they have been so a lot better with out Ronaldo, sought to defend his teammate.
“Yeah, however we gained the primary two video games with Cristiano within the [starting] 11,” he mentioned. “Cristiano is doing his job, he is doing his half. He is pleased with the consequence.”
However the drama and the questioning adopted them out the doorways of the Lusail Stadium, and can comply with them into their quarterfinal in opposition to Morocco.
Supervisor Fernando Santos, when requested whether or not Ronaldo would play in that recreation, answered vaguely that “all 24 gamers can play. And if they don’t seem to be within the beginning 11, they’ll play later.”