On June 5, 2019, the Portuguese national team faced off against Switzerland in the semi-finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League tournament. One notable absence from the starting lineup was none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, the team’s captain and all-time leading goal scorer. Many fans were left wondering why Ronaldo had been dropped, and speculations began to circulate.
The most commonly cited reason for Ronaldo’s absence was a minor injury. The Juventus forward had reportedly been dealing with a muscle problem for several weeks leading up to the match, and Portugal’s head coach Fernando Santos decided to rest him as a precaution. While this explanation seemed plausible, some critics argued that a player of Ronaldo’s caliber should have been able to play through the pain, or at least make an appearance as a substitute if needed.
Another theory was that Ronaldo’s absence was part of a tactical decision. Switzerland’s defense was known for being solid and difficult to break down, and perhaps Santos felt that a different approach was needed. Without Ronaldo, Portugal were forced to rely on other attacking options such as Bernardo Silva and Goncalo Guedes, who both had strong performances on the night. Additionally, with the likes of William Carvalho and Ruben Neves in the midfield, Portugal were able to control the tempo of the game and limit Switzerland’s attacking opportunities.
Whatever the reason for Ronaldo’s absence, it ultimately didn’t seem to hurt Portugal too much. The game was a closely contested affair, with both teams having chances to score throughout. In the end, it was a stunning long-range strike from midfielder Neves that secured Portugal’s place in the final, where they would go on to face the Netherlands and ultimately win the tournament.
While Ronaldo’s absence may have been a disappointment for some fans, it was a reminder that no one player is bigger than the team. Portugal proved that they were capable of winning without their star man, and that they had a strong squad capable of stepping up when needed. As for Ronaldo, he would go on to feature in the final and score the decisive goal, further cementing his status as one of the greatest players of all time.