Ronaldo benched for Portugal’s last-16 clash with Switzerland

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - Portugal v Switzerland - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - December 6, 2022 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo on the substitutes bench before the match REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

By Rohith Nair

LUSAIL, Qatar (Reuters) -Portugal coach Fernando Santos benched skipper and all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo for their World Cup last-16 clash against Switzerland on Tuesday, with veteran defender Pepe taking the captain’s armband.

Ronaldo, the first player to score in five World Cups, has only one goal in Qatar which came in Portugal’s group opener against Ghana.

He appeared to challenge Santos over the decision to substitute him in their loss to South Korea but the 37-year-old, a free agent after leaving Manchester United, denied that was the case.

Bruno Fernandes’s return will be a boost for the 2016 European champions, however, after he grabbed two goals and two assists in the first two games before being rested for the Korea clash.

The playmaker will slot in behind Joao Felix, who also returns to the starting lineup, and Goncalo Ramos.

Xherdan Shaqiri is one goal away from matching Sepp Huegi’s record for most World Cup goals scored by a Swiss player (six) and he lines up with skipper Granit Xhaka in midfield.

Breel Embolo, Switzerland’s top scorer in Qatar with two goals, continues to lead the line while first choice goalkeeper Yann Sommer returns after missing their last group game against Serbia due to illness.

Portugal: Diogo Costa, Diogo Dalot, Pepe, Ruben Dias, Raphael Guerreiro, Bruno Fernandes, Otavio, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, William Carvalho, Goncalo Ramos

Switzerland: Yann Sommer, Edimilson Fernandes, Manuel Akanji, Breel Embolo, Remo Freuler, Granit Xhaka, Ricardo Rodriguez, Djibril Sow, Ruben Vargas, Fabian Schaer, Xherdan Shaqiri

(Reporting by Simon Jennings and Rohith Nair Lusail, Qatar, editing by Ken Ferris)

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