The stage at the World Cup was set for Cristiano Ronaldo’s hero moment, but it never came

Doha, Qatar – Cristiano Ronaldo It was inconsolable. Tears streamed down the superstar’s face as the final whistle blew on his World Cup career.

Moroccan Guardian From Agruff He tried to put his arm around Ronaldo as he slowly walked towards the tunnel and the locker room. But the 37-year-old Portugal captain pushed the 23-year-old away and kept going.

Once in the tunnel, Ronaldo’s face scrunched up and pinched the bridge of his nose. The tears kept coming. And the cameras caught them.

An emotional Cristiano Ronaldo left the stadium

An emotional Cristiano Ronaldo left the stadium

Cristiano Ronaldo heads to the locker room after Portugal’s elimination by Morocco at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Ronaldo, one of the greatest players to ever play the game, will never win its most coveted trophy.

Just like this NeymarDream of winning this World Cup It ended on Friday night in his home country, and so did Ronaldo on Saturday. Among the legends in this match, only Lionel Messi Argentina continue with confidence after a wild win in penalty kicks the previous night.

Saturday was historic MoroccoThey won 1-0 and became the first African team to advance to the semi-finals of the World Cup Portugal Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

Even so, Ronaldo floated through it all.

The game got off to a tense start. Moroccan fans outnumbered Portuguese fans by thousands, and they whistled non-stop throughout the game – incredibly distracting sounds that are off the decibel charts.

After 42 minutes, the Atlas Lions hit Left again Yahya Ayat Allah A perfect ball from the left into the center of the box Yusuf N-Nesiri Floated above the goalkeeper Diego Costa Head the ball into the back of the net.

Al Thumama was already deaf and this moment blew the ear drums. N-Nesriri scored the first World Cup knockout round goal in Moroccan history. At that time, Ronaldo was nowhere to be seen as the global superstar did not start this match.

It was the second game in a row that manager Fernando Santos had deemed it wise to bench Ronaldo, a decision that garnered much attention in the game.

Win on Tuesday Switzerland It was the first World Cup game since 2006 that Ronaldo did not start for his national team. The initial decision came under heavy criticism, however Portugal won 6-1 And Ronaldo’s replacement, a 21-year-old rising star Gonzalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick. Santos said after the game that benching Ronaldo was tactical and not personal.

And so, Santos did just that against a disciplined and passionate Moroccan team that was aiming for history. Is the decision wrong this time? Even a FIFA official who spoke to a colleague walking down the stadium stairs after the match said: “I can’t believe he kept Ronaldo on the bench”. His colleague’s response was, “Yes, but Morocco deserves it.”

Does Santos regret not starting Ronaldo?

“No,” the manager said later. “I don’t think so. No regrets. No regrets. I think it was a very good team against Switzerland. Cristiano is a great player. He came in when we thought it was necessary. So, no, I don’t have. Regrets.”

For the past week, Ronaldo has played the good soldier. There were reports earlier this week that he had threatened to quit the national team and Qatar after Santos benched him, but Santos later clarified that those rumors were not true. He doesn’t think the drama affected the game.

“If you take the two most upset people in this game, it’s probably Cristiano Ronaldo and me,” Santos said. “Of course, we’re upset. Of course, it affects us. But that’s part of the game.”

Ronaldo was on the bench to start the second half. After halftime he walked down the tunnel wearing a yellow alternate pinny and talking to the team coach and backup goalkeeper. Rui Patricio Covering mouth with hands so people can’t read lips.

As the half began, Ronaldo began to warm up in one position. His eyes darted as he took a free kick at one end from Morocco Atlas Lions A crowd of fans jumping up and down on the other. He took a deep breath and kept stretching.

In the 51st minute, he was substituted for the match and the stadium erupted – louder at that moment than at any other time of the night. Maybe even the Moroccan fans cheered. It was their last chance to see one of the greatest players of all time play in the World Cup, even if he was on the other team.

And the stage is set for a save-the-day hero moment.

At least for a few minutes, Ronaldo’s presence on the field felt like a shock to Portugal. Its attack became more intense and precise Ceiling There were opportunities. At one point, Portugal had three straight corner kicks but were unable to convert any of them.

Bruno Fernandes A shot from the top of the box went wide in the 64th minute. The Portugal midfielder then produced a superb cross past the goalkeeper Yassin Bounau Ronaldo was caught before going past him. In the 83rd minute, Felix fired a shot that Bouunou dived to save.

The hero moment did not come.

Cristiano Ronaldo came this close to tying it

Cristiano Ronaldo came this close to tying it

Cristiano Ronaldo had a great chance to tie the game for Portugal in the 90 + 1 minute, but was stopped by a clutch save from Moroccan goalkeeper Bono.

Morocco pulled back in the second half, dangerous on the counter-attack, and Portugal couldn’t finish a single thing.

“Sometimes in football, we need a bit of luck and that’s not the case,” Santos said. “In our last game, we got a wonderful goal from a corner, but it didn’t happen this time. Also, in extra time, you could see our players were worried.

“The reason we’re upset is because we thought we were going to get to the final and win.”

Morocco drew Croatia in the group stage, then beat Belgium, Canada, Spain and now Portugal, conceding just one goal.

Next up for the team is either England or France, with Wednesday’s scheduled semi-final providing must-see theater (on Fox and the Fox Sports app at 2 p.m)

“We are becoming the team that everyone wants in this World Cup,” said Morocco manager Walid Regragui. “I think we are the ‘Rocky’ of this World Cup.”

Even so, Ronaldo and his tears stole the spotlight one last time.

Regar was asked if he was worried when Ronaldo came on in the second half.

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

But this time he didn’t.

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and football for Fox Sports. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @Lagenlitman.

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