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WORLD CUP 2022

Step aside Ronaldo, Ramos is the new hero

Cristiano who? Fans recognize Ronaldo’s contributions, but admit his glory days may be behind him and it’s time to let a new star step up.

Update:

Cristiano Ronaldo has been replaced…quite literally. After his replacement, 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos came onto the field in the World Cup round of 16 match against Switzerland and scored a hat trick, the name on everyone’s lips has been Ramos, not Ronaldo.

“Gonçalo Ramos is having a good season in Portugal,” said a Portugal fan after their 6-1 win over Switzerland. “He’s still young, but he’s risen to the challenge. I think now he has to stay on the team.”

Who is Gonçalo Ramos?

The young Portuguese hero has been nicknamed “Pistoleiro” (gunslinger in English) by fans. The nickname comes from his trademark celebration, where he runs to the corner flag and holds up his hands like pistols. When Ramos started on Tuesday against Switzerland, it was his first stat at Qatar. His hat-trick was the first of the World Cup’s. And what’s more, those three goals put Ronaldo to shame - Ronaldo has never scored a goal in a World Cup knockout match.

Ramos joined the Benfica academy in 2013, winning the national title at the Under-15 and Under-17 levels and then finishing as the top scorer in the Under-19 Euros when Portugal finished second to Spain. In his Benfica debut, Ramos scored two goals. After a breakout season in 2021, Ramos has taken it up a notch in 2022, scoring nine Primeira Liga goals with Benfica in 11 starts and is Portugal’s current top goalscorer.

Portugal manager Fernando Santos included Ramos in the World Cup squad for the first time after seeing his performance with Benfica. His first match with the national team was in a friendly against Nigeria, in which he appeared just briefly. That was enough though, for him to find the back of the net in a 4-0 beating.

Ramos the new Ronaldo?

Ramos mentioned that, among others, 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo has been a striking role model for him. When it came down to who to start against Switzerland in a critical World Cup knockout game, Santos chose to put Ramos in the starting 11 and bench Ronaldo.

“I think not even in my wildest dreams I thought about being in the starting 11 for the knockout phase,” Ramos said.

Santos’ decision paid off quick when Ramos scored the opening goal for Portugal after just 17 minutes. His two second-half shots completed the hat-trick and confirmed Santos’ faith in him, as well as garnered enthusiasm from Portugal fans, who broke into emphatic applause when he was finally substituted 15 minutes before final time. He is the first player to score a hat-trick in their first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.

“I’m a Sporting fan, the club where Cristiano Ronaldo comes from, and Gonçalo Ramos is from our rivals,” said a Portugal fan after the Switzerland match. “But anyone who has followed him this year knows that he is, right now, the best Portuguese striker.”

Though Santos’ decision to start Ramos over Ronaldo was debated, it turned out to be the right one. Ronaldo is still an excellent player, but his glory days may be behind him and it may be time for a new, young player to step into the limelight.

“Portugal without Ronaldo on the field is more mobile and has more options,” said a Portugal fan. “It’s a team with more depth, a team that can go right to the very final stages.”

“Ronaldo can’t start because we have young players with a different mentality, who are fresher,” said another Portugal fan. “Ronaldo has had his time. I think the group misses him, but he can be involved in the final 15 minutes. That showed that the manager has a firm hand.”

Now Santos has a decision to make ahead of Portugal’s quarterfinal match against Morocco on Saturday.

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