DOHA, Qatar— The fortunes of Portugal’s national team have been inextricably linked with Cristiano Ronaldo for nearly two decades.
Is a new era upon us?
Ronaldo was in tears as he made his way to the locker room following Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Morocco in the world cup quarterfinals on Saturday.
It remains to be seen if that was the last time the world saw Ronaldo on soccer’s international stage. If it is, it marks a huge moment for the Portugal team, given Ronaldo is its captain, record scorer and greatest ever player.
There’s a chance the team might also have a different coach for the first time since 2014 when qualification for the 2024 European Championship begins in March.
EXPECTATION VS. PERFORMANCE
Reaching the quarterfinals was the minimum expected of Portugal considering the depth of talent in its squad. The team sailed through the group phase by winning its opening two games. Coach Fernando Santos rotated most of his starting lineup for the final group-stage match against South Korea, which won 2-1 on a late goal, and then thrashed Switzerland 6-1 in the round of 16. Despite Morocco’s strong defense and status as the surprise of the tournament, Portugal was still expected to beat the North African nation in the quarterfinals so, in that sense, it is another missed opportunity and probably an overall underperformance by Ronaldo and his team.