Cristiano Ronaldo has never asked to leave the Portugal squad at the World Cup, but coach Fernando Santos did admit the veteran striker was not happy at being left out against Switzerland.

The 37-year-old was omitted for the round of 16 clash with Switzerland with Portugal cruising to a 6-1 win in his absence to set up a quarter-final clash with Morocco on Saturday.

Reports had suggested there had been a major fall-out between Santos and Ronaldo with the latter threatening to walk out, but that was flatly denied.

Santos said: "We had a conversation. I don't do that with all the players but he's the captain of the squad. You know what he represents for Portuguese football, for the Portuguese people and for the national team.

"It was on the day of the match after lunch. I explained to him why he would not play and said in terms of our strategy 'I think it would be better if you did not start. I think the game will be difficult and I will save you for the second half'.

"Cristiano was obviously not very happy as he has always been a starting player. But we had a normal conversation in which I explained my points and he accepted them.

"He never told me he wanted to leave the national team."

Santos often wears the look of an exasperated man but he was especially perplexed by the repeated questions relating to the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star.

"It's high time we stopped with this conversation and look at what he did in the match," he added.

"He warmed up with his colleagues, he celebrated all the goals and he was the one who invited the players to applaud the fans at the end. It's time for you [the media] to leave Cristiano alone.

"Ninety per cent of the questions are about Cristiano."

Ronaldo's replacement against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick as part of a team that displayed more verve and attacking threat than in previous games in Qatar.

Santos refused to confirm whether Ramos would keep his place against Morocco or if Ronaldo would return.

"Just because a team wins doesn't mean you can't change it," he said. "The team we play on Saturday will present different challenges, they are a very different team to Switzerland.

"They are well-organised with many players who play for the biggest clubs in the world. This will not be an easy game."

Playmaker Joao Felix was another who shone against the Swiss, arguably playing his best game of the tournament. Asked if he felt the shackles had been released with Ronaldo absent, he said: "I don't think it's mandatory to pass to Cristiano. We try to pass to the player that's available. 

"Independent of Cristiano being on the field, we have the same tactics, the ones we've been using for all four games. He has skills that other players have and vice-versa. We, as a team, have our own identity and we focus on that."

Cristiano Ronaldo did not threaten to leave Portugal's World Cup camp due to a disagreement with coach Fernando Santos.

That is according to the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), after reports emerged that Ronaldo had said he would abandon the squad following Santos' decision to drop him to the bench for the round of 16 game against Switzerland.

Portugal went on to win 6-1 on Tuesday, with Ronaldo coming on as a substitute and having a goal disallowed for offside.

In a statement released on Thursday, the FPF insisted there was no issue between the 37-year-old and Santos.

"News released this Thursday reports that Ronaldo threatened to leave the national team during a conversation with Fernando Santos," the statement read.

"The FPF clarifies that at no time did the captain of the Selecao, Ronaldo, threaten to leave the national team during the stay in Qatar.

"Ronaldo builds up a unique track record every day at the service of the national team and the country, which must be respected and which attests to the unquestionable degree of commitment to the national team.

"Incidentally, the degree of dedication of the player most capped by Portugal was again demonstrated – if necessary – in the victory against Switzerland."

Ronaldo's replacement against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick, and with Portugal having performed so well without their skipper in the starting line-up, it seems unlikely Santos will draft the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus forward back in for Saturday's quarter-final against Morocco.

Cristiano Ronaldo hailed Portugal's "historic" World Cup win over Switzerland, a match in which he was dropped by head coach Fernando Santos.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos named his superstar forward on the bench having been left disappointed by his reaction to being substituted in their final group-stage game against South Korea.

It marked another chapter in a tumultuous period for Ronaldo, who departed Manchester United by mutual consent in the wake of an incendiary interview with Piers Morgan.

Santos later said the matter had been solved internally, but Ronaldo's replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick and assisted another in the 6-1 rout of Switzerland that set up a quarter-final tie with Morocco.

Ronaldo did come off the bench and had a goal rightly ruled offside, before later hailing the performance of the team via an Instagram post.

"Amazing day for Portugal, with a historic result in the biggest contest in world soccer. Luxury display by a team full of talent and youth," he wrote.

"Congratulations to our national team. The dream is alive! To the very end! Come on, Portugal!"

Portugal coach Fernando Santos insists his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo is unchanged despite dropping the captain for Tuesday's 6-1 win over Switzerland at the World Cup.

Ronaldo was benched after Santos expressed his disappointment with the striker's attitude following his substitution during last week's defeat to South Korea.

Santos said on Monday the matter had been resolved internally, but Ronaldo was then dropped to the bench for the clash at Lusail Stadium, starting a major-tournament match among the substitutes for the first time since 2008 (31 games).

A fan poll on the website of Portuguese newspaper A Bola suggested 70 per cent of Portugal fans wanted Ronaldo out of the team, and the Selecao went on to produce one of their best performances at a major tournament in years.

Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo in the attack and had a hand in four goals, including a hat-trick, but Santos did not commit to keeping faith in the Benfica prospect for the quarter-final against Morocco.

Santos told reporters: "That's still something that has to be defined [who starts in the next game]. I already answered in yesterday's press conference [regarding Ronaldo]; there is no problem between us.

"I have a strong relationship with him, I always have. I have known him since he was young and at Sporting [CP], and then it started to develop in the national team.

"This relationship only developed. We've been friends for many years, things don't affect us.

"I already explained everything was resolved. I said that and I repeat that now. This is something that's finished and resolved.

"How he came in with a lot of will, he set an example as a great captain."

In scoring his hat-trick, Ramos became the first player to net three times on his first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.

Similarly, it only took him 17 minutes to do what Ronaldo has never managed: score in a World Cup knockout game.

For most, Ramos starting the quarter-final clash would be a simple decision to make, but Santos intends to keep people guessing.

"Obviously I have my ways to observes things, I always have," he continued. "The players we have in this position obviously have many different characteristics.

"Andre [Silva] plays more advanced, Cristiano is more fixed, he plays in a determined area. Goncalo is dynamic.

"That's what he ended up showing us, but it was nothing new because he came on in two other games.

"I have three players I fully trust and for each match I will use what I think is the right strategy, as I have always done in my career."

Tuesday's success was Portugal's biggest ever victory in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, with it the first time they have scored six beyond the group stage.

It was a truly rampant performance, though Santos was particularly pleased that his team did not get carried away with the euphoria.

"It's exactly what I said [to the players]; when we are euphoric, I think we can go beyond what we should do in a match.

"We can end up having a bit too much fun, to use that expression, and football is not fun. Yes, you have to play, have fun in the field, but too much fun is not appropriate.

"In this aspect, in terms of how serious they were, they were fantastic."

Portugal will face Morocco in their quarter-final at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.

Cristiano Ronaldo risks bringing his career to an unsavoury end after displaying a petulant attitude in recent months, according to his former Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville.

Ronaldo was dropped by Portugal ahead of their World Cup last-16 tie with Switzerland on Tuesday, having irritated coach Fernando Santos with his reaction to being substituted in a group-stage defeat to South Korea. 

Portugal did not suffer for the striker's absence as his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a brilliant hat-trick in a 6-1 rout of the Swiss, teeing up a quarter-final meeting with Morocco.

Ronaldo has courted controversy on several occasions this season, with his turbulent second spell at United being ended by mutual consent last month after he said the club had "betrayed" him in an explosive interview with Piers Morgan.

Speaking to ITV ahead of Portugal's game on Tuesday, Neville showed little sympathy for Ronaldo's situation, saying he must accept the end of his career is approaching.

"This is a manager who has had an unbelievable relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo for eight years," Neville said.

"There are a lot of fans of Cristiano Ronaldo who aren't willing to tell him the truth and I think he does need to listen to the truth.

"It's becoming a little bit of a scruffy end. The petulance, the stomping around, the sulking… it's got to stop because it doesn't reflect well on him at all.

"His long-term legacy is set, he's protected, he's one of the all-time great players, but in the short term, he's got to do a lot better because… is the Juventus manager wrong? Is the Manchester United manager wrong? And now is the Portugal manager wrong? There's three of them that now have done the same thing with him.

"You're leaving the game early like you did at United twice, stomping off the other day [against South Korea]. It's coming to that point where he's not accepting the end of his career very well."

Ronaldo – who has been strongly linked with a move to Saudi Professional League outfit Al Nassr in recent days – was introduced as a 73rd-minute substitute with Portugal already 5-1 up.

While Neville believes Ronaldo's drive to be the best served him well in the past, he says the five-time Ballon d'Or winner must now accept a more limited role.

"His single mindedness has been one of his greatest strengths over the last 10 or 15 years," Neville added.

"His determination to become one of the best in the world, to score the most goals, to break all the records, that fight with [Lionel] Messi.

"But there comes a point where you still have to think about the collective and that's your team-mates in the dressing room."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been left on the bench for Portugal's match against Switzerland in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Ronaldo's role in the Portugal team has been the subject of some debate in recent days following his substitution in the final group game against South Korea.

The free agent forward appeared to offer a dissenting comment towards coach Fernando Santos, who said on Monday: "I really didn't like it at all."

Santos added the issues had been "resolved", with the focus on facing Switzerland, but Ronaldo was not in his starting line-up when the team news was announced on Tuesday.

The all-time leading international goalscorer was replaced by Goncalo Ramos, with Pepe taking over the captain's armband.

Ronaldo is still waiting on his first knockout goal at a World Cup, having seen great rival Lionel Messi break his duck on Saturday.

The 37-year-old was released from his Manchester United contract earlier in the tournament and is yet to agree a deal with a new club, although a significant offer from Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia has been reported.

Ruben Dias pleaded with the Portuguese media to promote unity rather than trying to create a divide following criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Fernando Santos' Portugal side will face Switzerland in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday after winning Group H despite a shock defeat to South Korea on matchday three.

Ronaldo endured a particularly difficult day against the Taeguk Warriors.

He failed to hit the target with either of his two shots and was caught offside three times, with a couple of those situations raising questions of his concentration.

The 37-year-old was withdrawn in the second half and simultaneously had a disagreement with South Korea forward Cho Gue-sung.

Since then, a poll on the website of Portuguese newspaper A Bola suggests 70 per cent of supporters want Ronaldo to be dropped, and defender Dias had a defiant response.

"I actually think you shouldn't ask Ruben Dias that, but you should ask that to Cristiano Ronaldo," the defender told reporters.

"I'd like to take this moment to say, in this tournament the press is supporting us and Ronaldo, so I'd like to make an appeal to the press; as we progress, instead of creating a divide, create unity, then who knows maybe we'll have good strength and positive energy for all involved."

If Ronaldo was to be dropped, Rafael Leao would be among the favourites to step in.

The Milan forward came on as a substitute in all three of Portugal's group games, but Santos appears to think he still requires some adaptation work.

"He has a huge potential, and I think he will have a promising career," Santos added.

"But of course he faces the difficulties of any player who has a place in a club like his, where he plays more on the left and playing for the club he has more freedom.

"But at national team level, he needs to adapt to the others, to players who excel for their clubs but have a different [role] at the national team."

Cristiano Ronaldo's spat with South Korea's Cho Gue-sung frustrated Fernando Santos, who was unsure on reports surrounding the Portugal captain's future.

Ronaldo was involved in an exchange with Cho during his side's World Cup defeat to South Korea on Friday, where he appeared to get into a verbal tussle with his opponent as he was substituted.

The 37-year-old confirmed after the game that his frustrations had been with Cho, and not at Santos' decision to take him off.

While Santos has put the matter behind him ahead of Portugal's last-16 tie with Switzerland on Tuesday, he made it clear he was not impressed by Ronaldo's reaction.

"Did I see the images? I did," he said, in reference to footage of the incident. "Did I like it? Not at all. I really didn't like it at all.

"But from then on, these matters are resolved internally. From there, we think about the next game, for which everyone will be focused. The matter is over."

News emerged shortly before Santos' pre-match press conference that Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr were close to signing Ronaldo, who is a free agent after leaving Manchester United.

"I haven't spoken to him about this. I didn't know about this," Santos said.

"Someone only told me a few minutes ago. But that's his decision, and something that he has to deal with. We are focused on the World Cup and this team."

Ronaldo has scored only once in Qatar, converting a penalty he won in Portugal's 3-2 win over Ghana in their opening Group H match.

He became the first man to score at five different World Cups in the process, though he is yet to score in a knockout game in the competition.

Indeed, only Brazil great Roberto Carlos has had more attempts (29) without scoring in the knockout stages than Ronaldo (25) since 1966.

Fernando Santos has no issues with rotating his squad in Portugal's final Group H match against South Korea.

Portugal's place in the knockout stage of the World Cup was assured when they beat Uruguay 2-0 on Monday.

While top spot in the group is not secured ahead of the meeting with Korea at Education City Stadium, Portugal's goal difference (+3) puts them in prime position to go through as winners.

Santos suggested he will make the changes, but he believes utilising more of his 26-man squad is the only way his team will develop.

"We must continue to grow. To me the most important thing is the confidence I have in all of my players, I trust all of them," he said at a press conference on Thursday.

"We have at least three who will definitely play. As for the others, we will have to see.

"The players are in great shape, but we have begun to see fatigue, which can lead to injuries. We have another player who is somewhat fatigued and we'll have to look into that, but we also have to deal with the bookings we have got. 

"I'm very confident about who I'll be putting on the pitch. We have to understand for every match we have to make these decisions and I have to play the team I am most confident in regardless of previous results."

 

Asked if Ronaldo, who thought he had scored a 119th international goal when he tried to nudge home Bruno Fernandes' cross against Uruguay, would feature, Santos replied: "If he is well enough physically, he will be playing.

"I don't know if the chance is even 50-50, it depends on our training session. It depends if nothing happens and he will be able to play."

Winning the group would mean Portugal are likely to avoid a last-16 tie with Brazil, who look set to claim first place in Group G.

Santos is less concerned about the prospect of facing Brazil than he is about having fewer days in-between matches, however, as winning the group would mean Portugal play their last-16 match on Tuesday rather than Monday.

"At this stage, in terms of not running into Brazil – we're not really concerned about that at this point," Santos explained.

"When you come to a World Cup you strive to achieve something very important, so it's much more important to have at least 24 hours for the players to recover.

"I hope they will all be ready to play but if it's difficult to be in the best shape after four days, then after three days it's even more difficult."

It often feels like football works in cycles.

A few months beyond 20 years since a crunch group tie at the World Cup, South Korea and Portugal are ready to do it all again.

The Selecao are already through after two wins from two against Ghana and Uruguay, and barring a three-goal turnaround, their progression will come as group winners.

Head coach Fernando Santos could decide to rotate, but then again, perhaps the smell of revenge will be enough for him to go full strength once more.

The only previous meeting between South Korea and Portugal came at the 2002 World Cup, which South Korea won 1-0 on home soil in the final game of the group stage, a result that eliminated Portugal from the tournament.

This time it will be all or nothing for South Korea with only a win being enough, while also needing Uruguay to narrowly beat Ghana.

Paulo Bento's men have lost five of their last seven World Cup matches (W1 D1), as many as they had in their previous 16 (W5 D6), and are looking to win their third group game for just the third time at the tournament, previously doing so against Portugal in 2002, as mentioned, and in 2018 against Germany.

The first goal will be especially important as Portugal are yet to lose a match at the World Cup when they have scored first (P18 W15 D3), doing so without losing more than any other nation in tournament history.

 

Bento will not be present for the game after receiving a red card at the end of the 3-2 defeat to Ghana, furiously reacting to referee Anthony Taylor's decision to blow the full-time whistle after his team had won a corner.

"We shall continue to prepare in same way as other matches – our strategy will not fail," his assistant Sergio Costa said after that game. "He won't be present on the matchday, which is a loss because Paulo is obviously a great manager, but I think it will bring us together."

The irony being that Bento played for Portugal in that 2002 humiliation against South Korea. In fact it turned out to be his final game for the national side, before returning as head coach between 2010 and 2014.

Portugal, meanwhile, are looking to win all three group-stage matches for just a third time, also doing so in 1966 and 2006.

If Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. can do so while also ending South Korea's tournament, there will likely be a sense of payback to go with it.
 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

South Korea – Son Heung-min

Son was always going to be the main man for his country, but so far the Tottenham attacker has been unable to show his true worth in Qatar.

He has been a generational talent for his country, though. Since the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Son has scored more goals in Europe's top five leagues than any other South Korea player (137).

Son also had the most shots (40), shots on target (19), scored the most goals (5) and created the most chances (27) of any player for South Korea during qualifying.

Portugal – Bruno Fernandes

While most eyes have been on Ronaldo, as ever, his former Manchester United team-mate has been the real MVP of the World Cup for his country so far.

Fernandes has been involved in four of Portugal's five goals (two goals, two assists), and is only the second player this century to have registered multiple goals and assists in a team's first two group-stage matches, after Karim Benzema for France in 2014.

He also created 21 chances in qualifying, more than any other Portuguese player.

PREDICTION

Portugal lack a desperate need for a result in terms of winning the group, and the Opta prediction model does not have them as overwhelming favourites, though Santos' men are still expected to win with a victory chance percentage of 58.4.

The draw, which like a Portugal win is of no use either to South Korea's hopes, is rated at 22.3 per cent, while that all important victory for the Taegeuk Warriors is given a 19.3 per cent chance.

Nuno Mendes looks set to miss the rest of the World Cup but will stay with Portugal in Qatar, coach Fernando Santos has announced.

The Paris Saint-Germain left-back seemed set to be an important member of the Portugal team in Qatar, but a thigh injury has scuppered hopes of being a fixture in the side.

Mendes was not involved in the opening 3-2 win against Ghana but started against Uruguay on Monday, only to be substituted just 42 minutes into that game and replaced by Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro.

He left the field in tears, and that seems likely to be his only involvement in the tournament, with Guerreiro the obvious choice to be Portugal's starter at left-back against South Korea on Friday and thereafter, with the team's place in the knockout stage secured.

The 20-year-old was also troubled by a thigh problem in the weeks leading up to the tournament but returned to the PSG starting line-up for two games before joining up with his national side.

Santos said: "He will continue to stay with us here in Qatar because that's what the players wanted. The club allowed him to come here because it was important to him.

"He wanted to stay here with us, this really reflects the spirit of the team and how united we all are.

"I feel sad about those who won't be able to play, but it has to encourage me and the other players, because we have to make up for those who aren't there."

A statement from the Portuguese federation, the FPF, read: "The international Nuno Mendes, after carrying out tests, was considered unavailable for the work of the national team by the health and performance unit of the FPF. 

"The player suffered a muscle injury in his left thigh during the game between Portugal and Uruguay. Nuno Mendes will remain part of the national delegation in Qatar, where he will begin the recovery work."

Bruno Fernandes claimed "I don't really think it matters" after being credited the opening goal in a 2-0 win over Uruguay to secure Portugal's World Cup last-16 place.

The Manchester United midfielder scored twice as Fernando Santos' side guaranteed their passage into the knockout stage with a match to spare after downing Uruguay at Lusail Stadium.

Portugal's opener was initially credited to Cristiano Ronaldo, who appeared to faintly glance home Fernandes' 54th-minute cross, but FIFA eventually intervened and awarded it to the latter.

Fernandes sealed the points from the penalty spot in the closing stages and is now focused on securing top spot in Group H by avoiding defeat against South Korea on Friday.

"I don't really think it matters who scored the goal at this point," he said when asked about Portugal's first strike. "The feeling I had at the time was that Cristiano touched the ball. I was passing the ball to him.

"But what's important is that we were able to go on to the next round after a very important win against a tough opponent.

"The importance of being first [in Group H] includes winning the next game, which would allow us to come out of the group undefeated with three wins, and that's what we want.

"We know we will find a very well-organised [South Korea] team ahead of us. Our objective is to think match after match – to win all the ones in the group phase, we still have one ahead of us.

"We have to do our very best because we want to win all the matches."

Santos hopes Portugal can finish the job to top Group H, having won their opening two World Cup games for only the third time – also achieving the feat in 1966 and 2006 in runs to the semi-final stage.

The Portugal head coach saluted his players, while he also revealed that Nuno Mendes will be assessed in "24 hours" after limping off during the first half.

"All our team have a great performance," Santos said. "The game was difficult, our opponent was difficult.

"In the second half, we managed to play as we are used to; despite the fact that the Uruguayan players were playing very well.

"Our players responded with purpose, and we managed to win with fair play. We have a feeling of satisfaction as we can move to the next stage.

"[Two wins from two is] exactly what I wanted for my team. As I said back in Portugal, our team is very united, we have a very good team building, and now we are given the answers to what was asked of us.

"There is still a match to be played; we need to be careful with our considerations. We do want to be first [in Group H], but we are not first yet. As a result, we need to continue improving on our tactics."

Cristiano Ronaldo has the personality to handle any pressure that comes with being Portugal's leading man, says Fernando Santos.

Ronaldo, the record goalscorer in the history of international football, came into the World Cup with his future uncertain, after an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan.

The 37-year-old has since left Manchester United and is playing as a free agent for the first time in his career.

Ronaldo scored Portugal's opener in their 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday, becoming the first male player to score at five separate World Cup finals in the process.

And Santos shrugged off the suggestion Portugal place too much pressure on their captain's shoulders.

"We have players that are more visible than others and they need to deal with that, with the high priority and pressure," Santos said in a press conference ahead of Portugal's second Group H game against Uruguay.

"They express themselves in one particular way. There are players who are more extroverted, those more introverted, the most important thing is they play as a group, play together as one team.

"As far as Cristiano is concerned, I've known him for many years, since he was 19, we have other players that share the same personality.

"Little by little he has gained more experience, and understands this pressure, but we also take into account other players, not only Cristiano Ronaldo."

Another experienced campaigner in Santos' squad is Ronaldo's former Real Madrid club-mate Pepe, with the 39-year-old centre-back potentially in line to feature against Uruguay after Danilo suffered an injury to his ribs in the win over Ghana.

"He's a monster, Pepe is a monster," Santos said of the defender. "Someone who has a huge role, there's no doubt."

Ronaldo started with Joao Felix in a front two against Ghana, though Santos also has Milan star Rafael Leao, who scored with his first touch after coming on a substitute, to call on.

Asked if he would consider starting the trio together, Santos replied: "Of course it's possible, we did not come here with labels of one, two or three starters.

"We will line them up according to our needs, I'm serious about it. We have choices, and no player will be excluded, but we should not address this with an individual perspective, but as a collective.

"That's what we did against Ghana. In the first half we played very well, Ghana could not enter our area. In the last 30 minutes we should have been more aggressive because I know my players are capable. We were perhaps overconfident, but we can be confident if we are more aggressive.

"Our advantage is that we have a plethora of players that we can use. Our players are free to play, the only thing that I ask them is to follow my instructions. We will not hold our players on a tight leash – we let them free."

Joao Felix backed Portugal to go all the way at the World Cup after Fernando Santos welcomed a selection headache following a 4-0 friendly thrashing of Nigeria.

Bruno Fernandes' first-half double, coupled with late strikes for Goncalo Ramos and Joao Mario, saw Santos' side to a comfortable triumph on Thursday before setting off for Qatar.

Atletico Madrid attacker Joao Felix did not manage to get on the scoresheet but impressed in Lisbon, with Santos noting a credible performance from the 23-year-old.

"He was one of the best, with some others. They were all better, nobody plays alone," the Portugal coach said.

"Joao played a good game too, at the level of what the others did. I have 26 players knocking on the door. Every day they knock on my door in training.

"They all knock on the door and they all have reasons to play. That's certainly good for the coach."

Joao Felix suggested he enjoys more attacking freedom for Portugal than Atletico Madrid, as he backed Santos' side for glory in Qatar, where they face Ghana in their Group H opener next Thursday.

"I have more freedom of movement with the national team because we are very mobile," he said. "I felt good and the team had a great game.

"I think we are prepared to win the World Cup. We looked for the goal and I helped the team, which is my mission as a striker. 

"The goals did not appear in this game, but they will happen in the World Cup."

Santos will also have to consider the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the friendly victory due to "illness" as the aftermath of his scathing interview on Manchester United continues.

Bruno Fernandes scored twice as Portugal eased to a 4-0 victory over Nigeria in their sole World Cup warm-up game, despite missing captain Cristiano Ronaldo through illness.

Fernando Santos' side produced a dominant showing in Lisbon on Thursday amid the ongoing furore over the absent Ronaldo's scathing interview on Manchester United.

Fernandes' first-half double, the latter from the penalty spot, set Portugal on their way in their final outing ahead of Qatar, before Goncalo Ramos scored after Emmanuel Dennis missed a second-half spot-kick.

Joao Mario added a late fourth and Portugal will now turn their attention to next Thursday's Group H opener against Ghana as they aim to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in four tournaments.

Fernandes miscued an effort just wide in the opening stages but made amends after nine minutes as he turned home Diogo Dalot's cutback pass.

Joao Felix curled narrowly over before Bright Osayi-Samuel was adjudged to have handled inside the area, with Fernandes sending Francis Uzoho the wrong way with his spot-kick.

A host of half-time changes did little to alter Portugal's dominance, though Samuel Chukwueze forced a rare Rui Patricio save before Uzoho tipped over from Joao Felix.

The VAR deemed Dalot to have shoved Osayi-Samuel inside the area, though Patricio saved Dennis' penalty before Ramos sealed victory by tapping in Raphael Guerreiro's unselfish pass.

A simple Joao Felix offload teed up the final goal as Joao Mario prodded into an empty net.

What does it mean? Santos' side in cruise control ahead of Qatar

The ongoing controversy surrounding five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo could have easily derailed Portugal, though that did not prove the case in a routine win.

Santos' side dominated from the first minute without their talisman and will be confident of escaping Group H, which also includes Uruguay and South Korea.

However, the likes of Ghana and Uruguay – the latter with the likes of Federico Valverde, Ronald Araujo and Darwin Nunez – will prove much sterner tasks than Nigeria in Qatar.

Fernandes refutes Ronaldo deputy tag

All the talk in the build-up to the friendly surrounded Fernandes' United team-mate Ronaldo, though it was the midfielder who shone at Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Fernandes has regularly played the backing role to Ronaldo at Old Trafford and Portugal, but offered a timely reminder of his qualities with two goals as well as misplacing just three of his 37 passes.

More from Miffi

While Portugal impressed without their star attacker, Nigeria were left wanting in their forward line as Terem Moffi failed to deliver.

The 23-year-old completed just six of his 11 passes and managed 15 touches – the fewest of any outfield starter – before his second-half removal.

What's next?

Portugal's curtain-raiser comes against Ghana in Doha, while Nigeria are not scheduled for action until facing Guinea-Bissau in Africa Cup of Nations qualification in March.

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