Could Switzerland end Portugal’s World Cup hopes?
Both teams qualified for the knockout phase of the World Cup with two wins in three group stage games and now will face each other on Tuesday.
Group H winners Portugal will face Group G runners up Switzerland in the World Cup Round of 16 on Tuesday. They will play at Lusail Stadium at 2 p.m. ET.
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Portugal and Switzerland in the World Cup group stage
Portugal got off to a hot start in the group stage, winning their first two games against Ghana and Uruguay. They were already guaranteed a spot in the round of 16 when they lost their third game 2-1 to South Korea, and Uruguay’s victory over Ghana kept Portugal at the top spot despite the loss. They now seek to make it out of the round of 16 for the first time since 2016.
“Portugal has to play as we did in the first two matches,” said Portuguese player William Carvalho. “We have to be united from beginning to end, as we were in other rounds.”
Switzerland won their first group stage game 1-0 over Cameroon, but lost their second to Brazil, 1-0. That would have left them needing just a point, except that Cameroon then beat Brazil 1-0. That left Switzerland with a tough fight against Serbia, but a 3-2 victory eventually secured their second place in Group G and spot in the knockout round. Switzerland will try to reach the quarterfinals after failing to do so in their last seven World Cup appearances.
This game will be the third time that Portugal and Switzerland have played each other this year, with both sides winning one each in the UEFA Nations League in June. It started with Portugal getting a huge 4-0 defeat in Lisbon and ended with Switzerland taking the win 1-0 in Geneva.
Ronaldo’s World Cup hopes
Of course, we cannot talk about Portugal without mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo, whose poor attitude and questionable fitness level has been a topic of conversation since the start of the tournament.
Ronaldo was already making headlines in the Premier League following outbursts on the field and finally his interview with Piers Morgan in which he slammed Manchester United. He eventually left the team by mutual agreement in November and has been linked to a potential move to Saudi Arabia.
The outbursts did not stop there. At the 65th minute of Portugal’s game against South Korea, Ronaldo left the field and appeared to furiously shout at Portugal’s head coach Fernando Santos. Ronaldo has since said that his anger was not directed at the coach but at a South Korean player for rushing him off the field. Whatever the reason, it’s not a good look.
“I did not like it, not at all,” said Santos. “I really did not like it and from that moment on that issue is finished.”
Despite being one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Ronaldo has failed to score a goal in any of his six knockout appearances at the World Cup, despite playing 514 minutes and attempting 25 goals.
“You cannot write off Cristiano,” said Swiss player Sheridan Shaqiri. “Cristiano for me is one of the best players in the world with Lionel Messi together. This guy can score every second, every minute with his experience. And we know how he is and how important he is for Portugal and his team.”
Santos has not commented on whether he would feature Ronaldo on the starting lineup or start him on the bench, but he is focused on winning.
“There has been a long hiatus,” said Santos, who has been manager since 2014. “What matters is this match. Portugal always have the obligation to win.”
If Portugal don’t progress past the knockout stage, this could very well be Ronaldo’s final World Cup game. He has yet to lift a World Cup trophy and Switzerland won’t make it easy for him. Portugal have won nine games against Switzerland but lost 11 and drew five.