Portugal ‘play more as a team’ without Cristiano Ronaldo, that’s according to international teammate Jose Fonte.
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The former Manchester United attacker was left on the bench during Portugal’s 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last-16 of the World Cup.
Fonte last played for Portugal in a World Cup play-off against Turkey in March and was included in their preliminary squad for Qatar, though he did not make the final cut eventually.
As reported by Portuguese publication A Bola, Fonte said in a podcast: ‘Portugal have the quality to do this in every game, but we have to be honest – just his presence on the field makes the players of the national team unconsciously and automatically have to play for him and always give him the ball.
‘For being who he is, for what he has done and what he is still capable of doing.’ ‘When he is not there, Portugal plays more as a team and that was seen (against Switzerland).
‘They played fluidly, without a single focal point, everyone contributed and it was beautiful to see.’
Ronaldo lost his place in the line-up in the aftermath of his furious reaction to being substituted in their 2-1 defeat to South Korea in the group stage.
His replacement for the match against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos, netted a superb hat-trick to stake his claim to start in the rest of the competition.
Ramos said: ‘We had success with Cristiano Ronaldo over these years, he was very influential. Goncalo Ramos offers a different game proposal and had a perfect night, we were all happy for him. I hope it stays that way.’
Fonte added that the Benfica forward won’t lose his place in the squad, questioning: ‘How if the boy scored three goals?’
He added Ronaldo could make a positive contribution off the bench during the World Cup.
He said: ‘You cannot teach a legend like Ronaldo. Ronaldo will always be Ronaldo and for Portugal it is even very positive to have a player like him come off the bench – it will be one more problem to cause the opponents.
‘Fernando Santos brought a very strong mentality to the national team. The team has a great ability to defend together. And it will cause offensive problems in every game.
‘I believe that Portugal will go to the end of the journey, the World Cup is the title we are missing. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that to happen.’