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Portugal boss Fernando Santos has no regrets over benching Ronaldo

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By Martin Graham | 12th Dec 2022

Fernando Santos says he does not regret not starting Cristiano Ronaldo as Portugal crashed out in the quarter-final of the World Cup. For the second game running, Cristiano Ronaldo was relegated to the bench as Portugal took on Morocco in the quarter-final.

The debate between fans of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi over who is the greatest continues to rage on. They have continued to use the World Cup as a final yardstick to measure who of the two is the greatest. The argument and the measurement metric cannot be more infantile and absurd.

Both players have seen the World Cup as a final testament to their greatness as they pursue a seeming last piece to cement their glory. Both players are like Yin and Yang, as their fortunes seem interconnected and draw motivation from their rivalry.

Perhaps this World Cup will be the final assessment of a legendary rivalry. No matter the outcome, there is the feeling that the debate will continue.

For Ronaldo, this is one trophy that will never nestle in his cabinet. He has had the ill fortune of playing with a national side that does not have the collection of talents like Brazil, Argentina, Germany and France. Portugal crashed out of the World Cup in Qatar after a loss to underdogs Morocco. The former Manchester United star did not start the game, and coach Fernando Santos says he has no regrets for benching his star man.

Fernando Santos denies any regrets for benching Ronaldo

When Portugal took on Switzerland in the round of 16, Fernando Santos started the game with Ronaldo on the bench. It worked a treat as his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick in a heavy defeat of the Swiss side. Perhaps it motivated Santos, who may have believed that Ronaldo was a drag on the team.

Santos decided to repeat the trick. He chose to keep Ronaldo on the bench against the Atlas Lions of Morocco, but this time, it failed miserably. The team could not gain traction and struggled to break down a defiant Morocco team. It added to one of the upsets in the tournament as the Atlas Lions emerged victorious.

Following the loss to Morocco, many have heaped blame on Fernando Santos. They blamed his decision to keep his star player on the bench as a reason for the loss. Santos has expressed no regrets about his decision.

According to Santos, the team was expecting to give more joy to the Portuguese people. He said the players were upset as he was. He insisted he had no regrets about starting Ronaldo on the bench as the team has skilful players.

How Morocco upset Portugal

From the off, Morocco made their intentions known as they defended deep and occasionally took the game to their more illustrious opponents. There was an indication that things would not go the way of Portugal as they struggled to create chances.

Morocco took the lead late in the first half through a Youssef En-Nesyri header. The goal forced the hand of Santos as he made quick substitutions in the second half. Santos sent in Ronaldo early. The former Juventus star could not make much impact as he did not receive quality service.

Ronaldo was able to beat the Moroccan defence once. He ran on to a long pass from deep inside the Portugal half but saw his well-taken shot saved by Yassine Bounou.

Joao Felix was the biggest threat to the Moroccan side. On two occasions, Felix drew impressive saves out of Bounou. Pepe also had a golden opportunity to get an equalizer, with almost the last kick of the game.

Santos also gave credit to Morocco, though he felt the loss was unfair.

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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