Portugal – Switzerland: Perfect Play From Portugal As Ramos Runs Riot (6-1)

Portugal proved that they are better off without Cristiano Ronaldo with a big win over Switzerland, scoring as many goals in one match as they did during the entire group stage. Benfica youngster Gonçalo Ramos was the star, registering three goals in what was a dominant and physical display from the striker. 

Tactical analysis and match report by Charlie Tuley

In the final match of the round of sixteen, Fernando Santos’ Portugal were looking to capitalize on Spain’s loss to Morocco earlier in the day. Though Morocco are certainly no pushovers, Santos and his side would definitely be happier to face them than Luis Enrique’s possession monster of a Spain team. This easier route in the quarterfinals only gave Portugal more incentive to beat Switzerland, who have quietly had a strong World Cup so far. 

The biggest news ahead of the match was that Santos elected to start Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench after his poor campaign so far in Qatar. He was replaced by Gonçalo Ramos in the striker role, flanked by Bruno Fernandes and João Félix. In goal Diogo Costa was handed his fourth consecutive start, with Diogo Dalot, Pepe, Rúben Dias, and Raphaël Guerreriro making up the back four. Bernardo Silva, William Carvalho, and Otávio acted as the midfield trio ahead of the defensive line, with Santos deciding to put Rúben Neves on the bench for the first time so far in Qatar. 

Murat Yakin’s Switzerland are no strangers to playing spoiler in international tournaments, as they beat favorites France on penalties in the round of sixteen of the Euros in 2021 before narrowly losing to Spain (also on penalties) in the round immediately after. They narrowly scraped their way out of the group stages in Qatar, after a late comeback to beat Serbia 3-2 on the final matchday. 

Yakin made two changes from the team that beat Serbia, with Edmilson Fernnades slotting in for Silvan Widmer at the right-back spot. Fernandes started alongside Fabian Schär, Manuel Akanji, and Ricardo Rodríguez in making up the defensive line, ahead of Yann Sommer in goal (the other change to the lineup). Remo Freuler and Granit Xhaka partnered to form the double pivot in midfield for Switzerland, with Xherdan Shaqiri, Djibril Sow and Ruben Vargas ahead of them. Breel Embolo once again got the start in the striker role for Yakin’s side.

An intense battle early, but Portugal pull ahead

For the opening minutes the match looked like it would be a relatively even affair, with both sides having positive starts and trying to take the match to their opponents. Switzerland defended deep in what appeared to be a back five, with Ricardo Rodríguez dropping in to act as a third center-back whilst Ruben Vargas played as a pseudo wing-back. Yakin’s side looked dangerous in possession, and they had no struggle breaking Portugal down early on. They would stretch Portugal vertically, staggering their midfielders in a way that forced Portugal to go man-to-man in the midfield third, something that they struggled to get a handle on in the opening minutes. 

8th minute. Switzerland build out from the back, staggering their midfielders through the depth of their own half. As they did for much of the match, their fullbacks (Fernandes here) took up aggressive positions high up the pitch. 

Portugal took an intense approach in the absence of Ronaldo, trying to press Switzerland high up the pitch and in the midfield. In possession Bernardo Silva acted as the distributor from deep positions with Ruben Neves on the bench, and his ability to receive the ball from the center-backs and carry it to beat Switzerland’s advanced defenders was important in setting the tone early in the match. 

After seventeen minutes had passed, Portugal found their first goal of the game. From a throw-in on the left wing, João Félix received the ball just outside of Switzerland’s penalty area. He was able to turn with the ball, and he played a clipped pass into the penalty area for Gonçalo Ramos. Ramos received the ball at a tough angle, but he was able to orient his body to get a shot off. Fabian Schär, who was still goalside of Ramos, was not able to block the shot, and a stunned Yann Sommer could only watch as the ball flew into the roof of his net at the near post. Whether Ramos intended to place the ball as perfectly did or he had just hit it with all of the blind strength he had, he gave his defenders and the goalkeeper little chance at stopping such a low-probability shot. 

After the opener Portugal began playing with more confidence and energy, realizing that Switzerland were only more vulnerable after going down. Switzerland continued with their aggressive approach in attack, though they found it difficult to break down Portugal in the first half. Portugal played with a very high defensive line, and very few of Switzerland’s players tried to make line-breaking runs to get in behind the defense. They also made it much more difficult on themselves by positioning Remo Freuler and Granit Xhaka in higher positions after the goal, entrusting most of the progressive duties to their center-backs. All Manuel Akanji and Schär could do was to try and lob passes to the wings, which Portugal’s defense handled with relative ease. 

Portugal go for the jugular

Sixteen minutes after the first goal Portugal doubled their lead. The goal came from a corner kick, which was an outswinger delivered by Bruno Fernandes. The ball was met by Pepe, and the veteran defender out jumped his marker to head the ball home and give his side a much more secure lead. 

Switzerland, understanding what they needed to do to get back into the match, continued to throw numbers forward, with their fullbacks in particular taking up positions high on the wings. This only made it easier for Portugal to counterattack them, usually having numerical superiorities when they caught the Swiss out after an attack.

42nd minute. How the Swiss looked after an attack. Portugal quickly get the ball forward, with Ramos ending up having his one versus one chance saved by Sommer.

Just six minutes after the break Portugal found their third and fourth goals in quick succession. Portugal had the ball in Switzerland’s end after a failed counterattack, and Fernandes crossed the ball to Ramos, who was not able to get on the end of it. Diogo Dalot ended up with the ball, and after beating his defender he cut to the endline and delivered a cutback to the front post. Ramos was the first player to the ball, and he flicked the ball into the back of the net to double his tally for the night. 

Four minutes later, Portugal won the ball back near midfield and went at the Swiss defense quickly. The ball was sent in to Ramos at the top of the penalty area, and with both of Switzerland’s defenders ahead of him he sent the ball wide to Raphaël Guerreiro who had an unopposed shot at Sommer’s goal. He put the ball into the top corner of the net, all but solidifying Portugal’s qualification for the quarterfinals. 

However, the Swiss responded nearly immediately, giving themselves a miniscule lifeline back into the match. In the fifty-eighth minute, a Shaqiri corner kick was flicked on in a defensive error from Gonçalo Ramos, which fell to Akanji at the back post for a simple tap-in. Switzerland had just over half an hour to get back the three goals that would level the match. With nothing to lose, Yakin threw all caution to the wind and had his side continue to put numbers forward in attack, knowing that it would probably continue to cost them. Switzerland’s attacks slowly became more threatening, and they began to finally take advantage of their numerical superiorities in wide areas. In defense the Swiss began to take tactical fouls to break up the Portuguese attacks, not caring about the consequences of yellow cards with it getting increasingly unlikely that they would see the next round. 

It mattered little though. In the sixty-seventh minute Portugal added another goal to their lead, and Ramos secured his hattrick. It was a long ball to midfield by Diogo Costa from a goal kick, which was won by a Swiss defender. Bernardo Silva picked up the second ball in space, and played a through pass to Félix who was making an interior run from the left side. Unselfishly, Félix decided to lay off the ball to Ramos near the top of the penalty area once he came under pressure, setting Ramos up for a difficult chance against an outcoming Sommer, but the striker expertly chipped the goalkeeper, solidifying the first hattrick of the Qatar World Cup. 

With about fifteen minutes left Ronaldo finally made his entrance to the match. Even though he was facing an incredibly vulnerable Swiss defense, he was still unable to make much happen. He lacked the pace to get onto the through passes or make the runs that Ramos and Félix had been, and he was caught offside a number of times as he tried to cheat his runs to beat the Swiss center-backs.

In the second minute of added time, Portugal scored the final goal, delivering one final blow to a broken Switzerland team. Substitute Raphael Leão combined on the left wing with Guerreiro, and he found himself near the left corner of the penalty area. He sent in a curling shot towards the back post which a defeated Sommer failed to even make an attempt at. The match ended shortly after, with Portugal putting up the most ruthless and dominant performance yet in Qatar. 


This was a brilliant display from Portugal. Though they failed to keep a clean sheet, they defended quite well and restricted how much space Switzerland could utilize in attack (though the Swiss forwards’ lack of desire to make forward runs also only made defending easier). Their attack was as ruthless as it has ever been under Fernando Santos, which was only boosted by the lack of Ronaldo. The energy and effort that Gonçalo Ramos brought to the side along with getting into quality shooting positions, helping his teammates, and pressing made all of the difference. In a system that had previously gotten on well enough working to get the ball to the black hole of possession that is Cristiano Ronaldo, getting a player in who was willing to work for the system as opposed to purely out of selfishness elevated this side to one that could feasibly win the World Cup. 

It was a disappointing outing from the Swiss, but it is hard to see how they could have done anything different against this Portugal side. Aside from Schär getting tighter to Ramos on the first goal, there was little else the Swiss could have done to prevent the goal that forced them to have to fight back after going down. A more defensive approach from the start from Yakin might have made a difference, but it is difficult to see how Switzerland would have created anything in attack with a more conservative system. Regardless, though the Swiss will not be happy with how this match went, the team can be proud that they got out of the group stages before they begin transitioning out of the current core of aging players ahead of the 2024 Euros and 2026 World Cup.

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Charlie Tuley is a junior studying sport management at the University of Michigan. He currently works as a data analyst for the San Jose Earthquakes, and does freelance football analytics on Twitter under the name @analyticslaliga. [ View all posts ]


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