Portugal vs. Switzerland: Does Cristiano Ronaldo help or hurt his country?December 6, 2022
With the dubious distinction of never scoring in a World Cup knockout and sullen after being subbed against Korea, the 37-year-demeanor old’s did not impress coach Fernando Santos. His defensive contribution is questionable, but can Portugal go without their top goal-scorer against the Swiss?
As a result, the people have spoken.
Seventy percent of those polled by Portugal’s widely circulated sports newspaper, A Bola, do not want Cristiano Ronaldo to start the last-16 match against Switzerland on Tuesday. “He’s no longer CR7,” one of them commented. “His name is CR37.”
Ronaldo’s jersey number and age aren’t the only figures associated with him right now. On Monday, Ronaldo, a free agent, received an offer from Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr to join them for a reported salary of 200 million euros per year. During the negotiations, Portugal’s supporters, who have always supported their captain, are concerned about how focused he will be for Portugal’s first knockout stage match.
Then there was his outburst after being substituted during the final group stage match against South Korea. Fernando Santos was not pleased. “Have I seen the images of Ronaldo being substituted?” Yes. Didn’t I like what I saw? “No, I didn’t like it at all,” Santos stated.
However, Santos is unlikely to keep Ronaldo on the bench for a game as important as the World Cup round of 16 against a team that they lost to the last time the two teams met, Switzerland.
But it’s worth asking whether Ronaldo helps or hinders Portugal.
His stats demonstrate his worth. Ronaldo played 810 minutes more than any other Portuguese player during the World Cup qualification stage. He also had the most goals (6). He was the joint top-scorer at the Euros last year with five goals, three of which were penalties. Still, it didn’t matter because Portugal was eliminated in the Round of 16.
It is clear from this that Ronaldo is Portugal’s go-to goal scorer. These statistics fail to reveal that Ronaldo becomes a burden on his team when they must defend their lead. It happened against Serbia in the qualifying round, when they blew their lead in both legs, losing 2-1 at home and drawing 2-2 away (blowing up a 2-0 lead).
These results sent them to the playoffs rather than direct qualification. Apart from the Euros, where Portugal lost to Germany and drew with France after Ronaldo himself had given them the lead, similar results have occurred in the Nations League.
The primary reason for this is Ronaldo’s inability to provide anything other than goal-scoring. It’s similar to his situation at Manchester United, where his time there ended in acrimony, with the forward being benched for the majority of the season by manager Erik ten Hag due to his limited defensive contributions.
To be sure, Ronaldo is not expected to constantly drop deep into his own half and save his team. However, he is expected to lead Portugal’s press, and his inability to do so has hampered the team’s ability to retake possession deep into the opposition’s half on numerous occasions. This increases the pressure on the midfield and has a knock-on effect on the defensive line.
Ronaldo, who will be 38 in February, isn’t the same force in one-on-one situations and has lost a yard or two of speed, which means he can’t carry the ball as efficiently as he did, say, a year or two ago. And his runs behind the defensive lines have been largely rendered ineffective. It’s not surprising that Ronaldo isn’t on the radar of any of Europe’s “big five” leagues.
However, for Portugal coach Fernando Santos, the only thing that matters is his goal-scoring ability, especially with Diogo Jota out injured.
So, even if many people do not want him in the starting lineup, Ronaldo could be the first name on Santos’ team sheet. There’s also a personal record on the line for Ronaldo, who had a dubious record with Lionel Messi of not scoring a single goal in the knockout stages of a World Cup until the Round of 16 began.
Messi’s goal against Australia snapped the streak. That, if nothing else, should be a major motivator for Ronaldo.