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Santos on Ronaldo: I don’t regret starting him on the bench

Ronaldo, who has scored a 118 goals for his country, stormed off the pitch in tears after Portugal’s defeat to Morocco.

Portugal's forward #07 Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Portugal's coach #00 Fernando Santos react after losing  the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final football match between Morocco and Portugal at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on December 10, 2022. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

Portugal’s all-time leading goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench for Tuesday’s 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Portugal manager Fernando Santos said that he would not change his decision to leave Ronaldo on the bench even after his team was knocked out of the World Cup in a 1-0 defeat to Morocco in their quarter-final clash on Saturday.

Ronaldo, who has scored a phenomenal 118 goals in 195 appearances for his country, stormed off the pitch after the final whistle in tears after Portugal’s defeat to Morocco.

“I do not regret [leaving Ronaldo on the bench],” coach Santos told a news conference.

“It wouldn’t change anything, in terms of the team I can’t be thinking with my heart.

“I used the team that played really well against Switzerland and there was no reason to change it [against Morocco].

“The strategic decision that I had to make was one of the hardest, but I can’t think with my heart, I have to think with my head.

“It’s not that Ronaldo is no longer a great player, that has nothing to do with it.”

Morocco make history

Morocco have become the first-ever African and Arab country to reach the final four of the tournament thanks to a Youssef En-Nesyri goal in the first half.

Santos quiet on future

Santos refused to comment on whether he will resign and said that he will talk to the Portuguese FA president over the coming days about his future.

The 68-year-old said his team had difficulties finding spaces between the disciplined Moroccan defensive lines, and he praised their opponents for their effort, saying it was “completely their merit.”

“Sometimes in football what you need is a little bit of luck,” Santos said.

“We showed effort and quality, had several chances to score with Joao Felix, and Bruno Fernandes hit the bar, Pepe had a header in the end that could have been the equaliser... A bit of luck was missing.”

Morocco will take on France on Wednesday for a place in the 2022 World Cup final.


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