Ramos, Ronaldo and a very public and brutal World Cup humiliation


Yes, yes … we’ll get to Him. Of course we will because even when his involvement is increasingly, almost comically peripheral, everything ultimately ends up being about Him. But first a nod to the players and supporters of Morocco, to whom Tuesday really belonged. Following the north African side’s win against the throwback tiki-taka scamperers of Spain (possession: 77%, passes: 1,019, goals: 0), scarcely a U2 pun went unpunished as shootout hero Bono and chums celebrated a dogged, obdurate and thoroughly deserved victory.

On a truly Beautiful Day for Moroccan football, it was One in which their fans in Qatar, at home and elsewhere took understandably immense Pride. Scarcely a car horn went unparped on the streets of Casablanca by fans who will be hoping their team, who have conceded just one goal – an own goal – in their past eight matches can play it again in such fine style against Portugal, whose impressive demolition job on the Switzerland has been predictably overshadowed by the most conspicuous absence of the name “Ronaldo” from an official team sheet since the temporary omission of a certain Brazilian prior to the final in 1998.

Related: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal future left up in the air by coach Fernando Santos

While it has since emerged that the Brazilian Ronaldo was ill and almost certainly should have sat that game out, his Portuguese namesake has been suffering from nothing more serious than an inflated sense of self-regard, a form of pyromania that has led him to incinerate a couple of big bridges in under a month. No longer the footballing force he once was, Cristiano Ronaldo remains an intimidating presence on the pitch but for some time now it has looked like it is only his own teammates, rather than opponents, who are cowed by him. “I’m quite surprised but not overly shocked,” said the great Ally McCoist on ITV. “Having said that, I must say I am slightly shocked, of that there is no doubt.” Not for the first time in this tournament, Coisty succinctly captured the global mood in a nutshell.

While Fernando Santos’s decision to bench his show pony in favour of starting the young Benfica striker Gonçalo Ramos was a Big Call, it quickly proved the right one. Within 17 minutes the fresh-faced 21-year-old had passed Ronaldo’s career tally of zero World Cup knockout stage goals and missed a couple of presentable chances but finished the game with this tournament’s first hat-trick. And while the man he replaced joined in the goal celebrations before helping to close out the game ahead of an abrupt post-match scuttle down the tunnel, we can but guess what he made of what was ultimately a very public and brutal humiliation.

“We wanted a team that played with a lot of fluidity,” said Santos, when asked about his decision to drop Ronaldo, among other big but not quite so stellar names. “Cristiano is more fixed, he stays in a more determined role towards the box. Gonçalo has different characteristics: he is very dynamic and that’s what he ended up showing us.” With Morocco to come, Ramos seems to have made himself undroppable, while on the other hand his forlorn and beleaguered captain increasingly seems unpickable.


Join Will Unwin from 8pm GMT for minute-by-minute updates of Arsenal 3-1 Juventus in Women’s Big Cup.


“A page turns today... Thank you for your love. Thank you for your unparalleled support. Thank you for all this happiness shared since 2008... I will miss you” – Eden Hazard channels his inner William Blake as he calls time on his international career to jump on the love boat.

Thanks for the memories.
Thanks for the memories, Eden. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images


In response to Steve Marron’s request for a pub recommendation in Cambridge (Tuesday’s Football Daily letters), I can do no better than pass on one I received from this parish’s very own Max Rushden 12 years ago. I was with a few friends in Puerto Escondido in Mexico when we celeb-spotted our Max, who was an absolute delight. We were living in Cambridge at the time, and Max, being a local, was keen to send our custom to the Salisbury Arms, not far from the station. Great beers (not just for those in the royal boxes) and artisan pizzas. Don’t thank me, thank Max” – Theo B-P.

As a Cambridge resident, may I suggest the Free Press or the Panton Arms (five and 10 minutes out of the centre, respectively). Or the Elm Tree (the Hobbit pub) and The Champion of the Thames if they just want beer. ‘Proper’ pubs, all. In the centre of town, though, especially for USA! USA!! USA!!! visitors, it has to be The Eagle on Bene’t Street with its famous ceiling, covered in burnt-in names and messages from airmen stationed nearby during the second world war. It’s fascinating, very moving – and the food’s pretty good” – Steve Bennett.

Kudos to Spain manager Luis Enrique for inspiring dreamy middle-aged male football fans everywhere by bringing on substitutes Balde and Fati in the 97th minute in a bid to break down the sturdy Moroccans” – David Collins.

Spain v Morocco may have been too close to call but there really is a gulf in class between a Ronaldo-less Portugal and the Africans – the Gulf of Cádiz – Nick Smith.

It’s our cool and informed sister email, Moving The Goalposts, on the rise and rise of Roma Women.