By TALES AZZONI
AP Sports Writer
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped from Portugal’s starting lineup for the second straight match at the World Cup, coming on as a substitute early in the second half with his team losing 1-0 to Morocco in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Ronaldo replaced midfielder Rúben Neves in the 51st minute for his 196th international men’s appearance, the most of all time along with Kuwait forward Badr Al-Mutawa.
Ronaldo, playing in his fifth and likely final World Cup, had also started on the bench and then came on as a substitute for the round-of-16 match against Switzerland.
Morocco took the lead with a header by Youssef En-Nesyri in the 42nd.
Gonçalo Ramos, who scored a hat trick on Tuesday in Portugal’s 6-1 win over Switzerland on his first start for Portugal, was again selected ahead of Ronaldo.
He was left out of the lineup against the Swiss after coach Fernando Santos expressed frustration about his team captain’s attitude in the previous game.
Santos later said Ronaldo was “not happy” to be told he was being benched, but never threatened to leave the World Cup because of the decision.
Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in men’s international soccer with 118 goals, eventually came in as a replacement in the 74th minute. He had looked somewhat disconnected from the rest of the squad after the match, and had already shown a poor attitude after being substituted in the last group game against South Korea.
Ronaldo was coming off lackluster performances in the group stage, though he scored in the 3-2 win against Ghana to become the first player to score in five World Cups. He has played in every edition of the tournament since 2006.
Portugal’s other starters against Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium included João Félix, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Otávio.
Portugal is trying to make it to the last four for the third time, having finished third in 1966 and fourth in 2006. It hadn’t gotten past the round of 16 since that tournament in Germany 16 years ago.
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