A stunning hat-trick from youngster Goncalo Ramos inspired Portugal to an emphatic victory against Switzerland. (Photo: @FIFAWorldCup Twitter)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s omission from the starting XI proved no issue for Portugal in its Round of 16 clash against Switzerland, with several other Portuguese playmakers stepping up in his absence to produce moments of quality in a comfortable 6-1 victory. 

Much of the discussion prior to the encounter was centred around the bold decision of Portugal coach Fernando Santos to bench his star striker. This marked the first time Ronaldo had started on the bench in a major tournament since 2008, a clash interestingly also against Swiss opposition.

However, Santos’ team selection was emphatically vindicated, with Ronaldo’s replacement Goncalo Ramos scoring a stunning hat-trick in his first ever international start. He was well supported by Portugal’s technically gifted creative midfielders, who controlled the tempo of proceedings and wreaked havoc in the final third.

After a cautious start from both sides, it was Portugal who looked to assert themselves on the contest, striking first in the 17th minute courtesy of a thumping finish from Ramos. Having been picked out in the penalty box by Joao Felix, Ramos swiftly got his shot away, rocketing the ball into the top left corner from the tightest of angles.

Switzerland keeper Yann Sommer had no answers, beaten at his near post by a 21-year-old keen to make his mark on the world stage. This was merely the beginning of a sustained Portugal onslaught, who continued to look threatening going forward for the remainder of the encounter. 

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Felix was central to Portugal’s forward thrusts, utilising his exquisite passing range and vision to manufacture multiple scoring opportunities. A delightful cross from the Atletico Madrid playmaker resulted in a corner, which subsequently saw Pepe rise highest and double Portugal’s advantage in the 33rd minute.

Pepe’s goal means that the 39-year-old now holds the record as the oldest ever player to score a knockout goal in a World Cup final. 

Holding a 2-0 lead at the half-time interval, Portugal set out to inflict even more pain on an under-siege Switzerland outfit in the second half. Only six minutes after the restart, a well-directed cross from Diogo Dalot found Ramos inside the six-yard box, who calmly tapped the ball into the back of the net. 

Ramos’ second of the night broke the back of a Switzerland team which was afforded no respite from a Portugal line-up hungry to assert its World Cup credentials. 

A flurry of goals immediately followed, with Raphael Guerreiro adding his name to the scoresheet for Portugal, before Swiss central defender Manuel Akanji reduced the deficit to 4-1 minutes later via a corner.

However, the main headlines of the clash belonged to Goncalo Ramos, whose sumptuous finish in the 67th minute capped off a brilliant display from the Benfica forward. Ramos’ deft chip over the keeper ensured his maiden international start was marked with a clinical hat-trick, becoming the first player at the 2022 FIFA World Cup to register a hat-trick.

The faith shown by coach Fernando Santos clearly paid dividends, with Ramos making a name for himself on the biggest stage and surely cementing his spot in the Portugal starting line-up moving forward in the tournament. 

A late goal in stoppage time from substitute Rafael Leao put the finishing touches on what was a potent performance from Portugal, who will now turn their attention to a quarterfinal clash with Morocco. 

For Switzerland, defeat at the hands of Portugal marks the end of its World Cup campaign. The Swiss have now bowed out at the Round of 16 stage in each of the last three editions of the FIFA World Cup. 

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