Portugal head coach Fernando Santos said he had no regrets about starting Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench after his team was eliminated from the FIFA World Cup by Morocco on Saturday.
Youssef En-Nesyri headed home on the stroke of halftime after Portugal dominated possession without finding a way past Morocco’s defense in their quarterfinal here.
Ronaldo, who started on the bench for the second game in a row, was introduced in the 51st minute as a replacement for Ruben Neves, and made an immediate impact.
His deft one-touch pass for Joao Felix almost led to an equalizer and he forced a sharp block from goalkeeper Yassine Bounou with a first-time effort in stoppage time.
“I don’t regret starting him on the bench,” Santos was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency. “We put out a team that played very well against Switzerland (in the round of 16). Cristiano is great player and he came on when we thought it was necessary.”
Ronaldo, who scored just one goal in this World Cup – a penalty against Ghana in their opening match – looked a desolate figure after the match at Al-Thumama stadium.
The 37-year-old, who has been capped 195 times and scored a record 118 goals for his country, walked off the pitch almost immediately after the final whistle with his head bowed.
“The two people that were upset most about the result were Cristiano Ronaldo and myself,” Santos said. “But that’s part of our jobs as players and coaches.”
Santos did not guarantee his continuation as Portugal boss, saying he would meet with the head of the Portuguese Football Federation in the coming weeks.
“I’ve had a discussion with the president and we’ll deal with the issue of the contract with serenity when the opportunity arises,” Santos said.
“We didn’t go as far as we wanted to (in Qatar) but our team has great quality and we could have played better. There are games when you need luck and unfortunately we didn’t have it today.”