The World Cup stage was set for Cristiano Ronaldo’s hero moments, but they never arrived

Doha, Qatar – Cristiano Ronaldo He was inconsolable. The final whistle may have blown on his World Cup career, and tears streamed down the star’s face.

Moroccan defender Ashraf Dari He tried to put his arm around Ronaldo as he slowly walked towards the tunnel and the locker room. But the 37-year-old Portuguese captain turned the 23-year-old away and kept walking.

Once in the tunnel, obscured from the rowdy Moroccan crowd still cheering and celebrating, Ronaldo’s face wrinkled, and he pinched the bridge of his nose. Tears continued to flow. Cameras caught them.

Cristiano Ronaldo leaves the stadium

Cristiano Ronaldo leaves the stadium

Cristiano Ronaldo heads to the dressing room after Portugal was eliminated by Morocco in the 2022 World Cup.

Ronaldo, one of the greatest players to ever play the game, will probably never win his most coveted title.

just us NeymarDream of winning this world Cup For his country, Friday night ended, and so did Ronaldo on Saturday. Among the legends in this tournament only Lionel Messi Still hopeful after Argentina’s runaway penalty shootout win the night before.

Saturday was historic for Moroccowho became the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup with a 1-0 victory Portugal On Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

However, Ronaldo hovered above it all.

The game started with a tense buildup. The Moroccan fans outnumbered the Portuguese fans by thousands, blaring incessant whistles throughout the match – incredibly distracting sounds that were off the decibel charts.

42 minutes later, Atlas black Scored. behind left Yahya Atiyatallah Perfect lift the ball from the left side to the center of the penalty area and Youssef Al-Nusairi Float over the goalkeeper Diogo Costa Touches the ball in the back of the net with his head.

The hum was already deafening, and at this moment my eardrums exploded. Nasri had just scored the first World Cup knockout goal in Morocco’s history. At that point, Ronaldo was nowhere to be found, as the world star had not even started this match.

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It was the second match in a row that coach Fernando Santos thought it wise to put Ronaldo on the bench, a decision that got a lot of attention early in the game.

Tuesday win Switzerland It was the first World Cup match that Ronaldo had not started for his country since 2006. The initial decision was met with heavy criticism, but Portugal won 6-1 and Ronaldo’s understudy, a 21-year-old rising star Gonzalo RamosScore a hat-trick. Santos said after that match that Ronaldo’s inclusion was tactical, not personal.

So, Santos did the same against a disciplined and passionate Moroccan team looking to make history. Was it the wrong decision this time? Even a FIFA official who spoke to his colleague as he walked down the stadium stairs after the match said casually, “I can’t believe it was Ronaldo on the bench.” His colleague replied, “Yes, but Morocco deserves it.”

Does Santos regret not starting Ronaldo?

The manager then said “no”. “I don’t think so. No regrets. No regrets. I think this team played very well against Switzerland. Cristiano is a great player. He came when we thought it was necessary. So, no, I have no regrets.”

Over the past week, Ronaldo has played the role of a good soldier. There were reports earlier this week that he had threatened to leave the national team and Qatar after being slapped by Santos, but Santos later clarified that those rumors were not true. He does not believe the drama affected the game.

“I think if we take two people who were most upset about this match, it would probably be Cristiano Ronaldo and me,” Santos said. “Of course, we’re upset. Of course, it affects us. But that’s part of the game.”

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Ronaldo remained on the bench to start the second half. He walked down the tunnel after halftime still wearing a yellow substitution pin, chatting with the team’s coach and backup goaltender Roy Patricio Their hands cover their mouths so people can’t read lips.

Once the first half started, Ronaldo started warming up on the sideline. His eyes darted from Morocco’s free kick from one side to Atlas black The fan base jumps up and down on the other. He took a deep breath and continued to stretch.

In the 51st minute, he was substituted with the match and the pitch exploded – louder at that moment than at any other time of the night. Perhaps even the Moroccan fans rejoiced. It was their last moment to see one of the greatest players ever in a World Cup, even if he was on the other team.

The stage was set for the hero moment that saves the day.

I felt, at least for a few minutes, that Ronaldo’s presence on the field gave Portugal a jolt. Its attack became more intense and accurate, and Silacao He has chances. At one point, Portugal took three corner kicks in a row but could not convert any of them.

Bruno Fernandez His shot from the top of the penalty area in the 64th minute went just over the goal. The Portuguese midfielder later had a great cross from that goalkeeper Yassin Bono He was caught before Ronaldo could get past him. In the 83rd minute, Felix unleashed a shot that would have gone in had Bono not pounced in to save it.

The hero’s moment never came.

Cristiano Ronaldo came close to tying it up

Cristiano Ronaldo came close to tying it up

Cristiano Ronaldo had a great chance in the 90 + 1 minute to equalize the match for Portugal, but he was stopped by a fist from Moroccan goalkeeper Bono.

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Morocco fell behind in the second half, remaining dangerous on the counter-attack, and Portugal could finish nothing.

“Sometimes in football we need a little bit of luck and it just wasn’t like that,” said Santos. “In our last game, we had a great corner kick, but this time it didn’t happen. Also, we saw in extra time, that our players were worried.

“The reason we are angry is because we thought we could make it to the finals and win.”

Morocco tied with Croatia in the group stage, then beat Belgium, Canada, Spain and now Portugal, while conceding only one goal.

Next up for the team is either England or France, a semi-final game scheduled for Wednesday that will provide a must-watch scene (2 p.m. on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

“We have become the team everyone loves in this World Cup,” said Moroccan coach Walid Regragui. “I think we’re ‘Rocky’ at this World Cup.”

However, Ronaldo and his tears grabbed the spotlight for the last time.

Regragui was then asked if he was worried when Ronaldo was substituted in the second half.

“I know he can score from nothing,” Regragui said.

This time though he didn’t.

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball, and soccer for FOX Sports. She has previously written for Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of Strong Like a Woman, which will be published in the spring of 2022 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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