With 4-1 and an hour of play, the Portuguese section of the Lusail stands remembered that Cristiano Ronaldo was not on the grass. And he invoked him: “Ronaldo, Ronaldo!” One time. Twice. Three times. The attacker appeared on the screens, sent to the thinking corner by the coach after insulting him when he changed him in the match against Korea. He clenched his jaw, aware that everyone was looking at him.
But soon it was 5-1, the third goal of the night by Gonçalo Ramos, a 21-year-old boy from Benfica who took the mythical place in the starting eleven as if he were running around the garden at home. “Not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine starting with a hat-trickhe said with a happy smile. The same one with which he remembered the strikers who had inspired him: “Cristiano Ronaldo, Lewandowski…”.
And that CR had aired his discontent since the warm-up. A footballer without a club after his break with United, he appeared on the grass of Lusail with the air of someone who has just suffered a double banishment, the last one from his team. He walked out of place among the substitutes. He contemplated the last shots of the headlines, unaware of the rest’s exercises. He moved slowly, very slowly, until he stopped. He stepped on a ball and remained with it under the boot, staring into space, arms on his hips. When he came back from reverie he gave out a few hugs and went to the locker room.
He does not have a team, but the stands remain, nostalgic for when he reigned. His face appeared on the screens during the anthem, the fans waved as if about to take a free kick. From there, he endured the torture of the bench eating his nails.
From there he contemplated how the future took off and also how part of the past, even more past than him, still had a pass left. First with João Félix, another discontent in his team, although less abrasive than Cristiano and his atomic interview before the World Cup. Against Switzerland, he exhibited the levity of a freedman. He floated. And he assisted Ramos, another piece of the future, for the first. The Benfica striker is the youngest player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup since the Hungarian Flórián Albert in 1962.
Then the past that resists returned, with a header from Pepe, now 39 years old, the oldest to score in a tie.
When Fernando Santos finally decided to allow Cristiano onto the field, the game was already 5-1, but the stands saw him ready on the wing and roared as if a goal had been scored. And the same when he trotted in, already with the bracelet that Pepe had come to give him back. Enthusiasm was so high that, meanwhile, Gonçalo Ramos retired to the bench with hardly anyone seeing him off with a round of applause, after racking up three goals and one assist.
The agitation for the hope that the 7 would score swallowed everything. He did, but offside by several meters, and the stands took it against the linesman, really angry with the passage of time. Ramos took the match ball, and Cristiano escaped scowling first towards the dressing room, while his teammates were still celebrating on the pitch. It seems difficult, but Santos does not want to know more about the tantrum: “As I said, it is something that is already finished.”
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