Ronaldo, a Portuguese superstar nearing the end of his career, stopped momentarily to say goodbye to two Moroccan players but barely budged from his stride. Ronaldo, 37, left what he has stated may be his final World Cup as Morocco and its supporters rejoiced and Portugal’s squad sat there in stunned silence.
— Adriano Del Monte (@adriandelmonte) December 10, 2022
Television cameras saw Ronaldo, who has received numerous awards but has never won a World Cup and has lately been used only as a replacement player, wiping his eyes in the tunnel. If this was the last game for one of the greatest players ever, it was disappointing for him and a team that some thought could have gone further in the playoffs.
“If we take two people that were the most upset about the game, perhaps it was Cristiano Ronaldo and myself,” Portugal Coach Fernando Santos said through an interpreter.
For seasoned athletes like Ronaldo, Lionel Messi of Argentina, and Luka Modric of Croatia, this World Cup was meant to be their final performance on this platform. Only one side can take home the championship, but Messi and Modric continue to play vital roles for their teams and are still in the competition. But recently, team captain Ronaldo found himself sitting on the sidelines more than he was on the field.
Ronaldo started the first two games of the World Cup group stage before being replaced late. Santos took Ronaldo’s place much earlier, in the 65th minute, during Portugal’s third and final group-stage match, a 2-1 loss to South Korea. Ronaldo did not take this well and in response put his finger to his lips in an apparent request for silence.
In the next game, a round of 16 matchup with Switzerland, Santos benched Ronaldo and explained it was because he was frustrated with his player’s attitude in the previous game. Santos later said that Ronaldo was not happy when told of his benching but that he had never threatened to leave the team.
Ramos failed to impress against Morocco’s defence once more, and in the 69th minute, Rafael Leo came on to take his place. Ronaldo joined the quarterfinal match in the 51st minute and attempted to contribute with runs, passes, and shots; Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, often known as Bono, stopped one in the first minute of stoppage time; but, against a strong defence, he primarily appeared to be an ageing player.
Santos, who criticised the squad for its several wasted opportunities, stated, “I do not think that what happened to Cristiano Ronaldo and all the criticism that he experienced had any impact on the match today. “We have always been a pretty tight-knit team.”
Pepe, a 39-year-old defender and Ronaldo’s longtime colleague, said when asked if this was his last match for Portugal.