After being on the bench at the start for the second straight match, Ronaldo couldn’t help Portugal come back against Morocco, losing 1-0 in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Ronaldo walked off the field in tears.
Ronaldo came on as a substitute early in the second half with his team already losing. He replaced midfielder Rúben Neves in the 51st minute for his 196th international men’s appearance, the most of all time along with Kuwait forward Badr Al-Mutawa.
Ronaldo, playing in his fifth and likely final World Cup, had also been on the bench to start in the round of 16 against Switzerland, making an appearance as a substitute.
Morocco took the lead on Saturday with a header by Youssef En-Nesyri in the 42nd minute.
Ronaldo was among the first substitutions made by Portugal coach Fernando Santos and — after receiving the captain’s armband from defender Pepe — rushed onto the field and started cheering on his teammates. As time kept running out, he also raised his arms toward the Portugal fans — heavily outnumbered by the Moroccans — and asked for their support.
Ronaldo helped increase the intensity of the Portugal attack that had struggled to get past the well-organized Moroccan defense. He immediately created an opportunity with a cross into the area, then lost possession shortly afterward. He also set up a shot by João Félix in the 82nd, but his teammate’s strike was saved. Ronaldo’s last-gasp shot in stoppage time also was saved.
Ronaldo walked off the field after the final whistle and started crying by the time he entered the tunnel into the locker rooms.
Some Moroccan players had gone to console him, but there were no Portugal teammates by him as he walked off. Most had stayed on the field and went toward the Portugal fans to thank them for their support.
Santos patted Ronaldo’s back as he passed by him near the sideline.
Ronaldo had said before the World Cup that he did not plan to retire from the Portuguese national team after the tournament in Qatar, and that he planned to play at least at the 2024 European Championship.
He remained with eight World Cup goals, one shy of Eusébio’s record with Portugal in the tournament.
Ronaldo was left out of the lineup against the Swiss after Santos expressed frustration about his team captain’s attitude in the previous game.
Santos later said Ronaldo was “not happy” to be told he was being benched, but never threatened to leave the World Cup because of the decision.
Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in men’s international soccer with 118 goals, eventually came in as a replacement in the 74th minute. He had looked somewhat disconnected from the rest of the squad after the match.
Ronaldo was coming off lackluster performances in the group stage, though he scored in the 3-2 win over Ghana to become the first player to score in five World Cups. He has played in every edition of the tournament since 2006.
Portugal’s other starters against Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium included João Félix, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Otávio.
Portugal was trying to make it to the last four for the third time, having finished third in 1966 and fourth in 2006. The team hadn’t gotten past the round of 16 since that tournament in Germany 16 years ago.
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