Cristiano Ronaldo missed Portugal's record-breaking 9-0 win over Luxembourg at the Estadio Algarve as Roberto Martinez's side booked their place at Euro 2024 next summer
Portugal boss Roberto Martinez has jumped to the defence of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo after his team booked their place at Euro 2024 without him.
Seleccao das Quinas recorded their biggest-ever win by beating Luxembourg 9-0 on Monday, with Bruno Fernandes scoring one and providing three assists. Diogo Jota, Goncalo Ramos and Goncalo Inacio grabbed a brace each, while Joao Felix and Ricardo Horta also found the net at the Estadio Algarve.
It all proved to be too much for Luxembourg boss Luc Holtz, who left the bench and headed down the tunnel when Fernandes made it 8-0 in the 83rd minute.
Portugal did an impressive job without Ronaldo, who missed the game after being shown a yellow card in their victory over Slovakia on Friday. It was the 38-year-old's third booking of the current qualifying campaign, meaning he would have to serve a one-match ban.
In his absence, Ramos started up front and impressed, while Jota came into the side and added another dimension to Portugal's front-line. After his side's win, Martinez heaped praised on the duo and also admitted they are "ready to win" when Ronaldo is now not involved.
"Gonçalo Ramos showed today what he can do, and Diogo Jota did the same," Martinez said. "We need players who have the level to win games. The group is special. We don't need to compare them. Cristiano is important, but our team is ready to win without him."
When asked about whether Portugal perform better without Ronaldo, Martinez added: "No. Cristiano is a very important element for this team, Ronaldo has experience and a way of his own.
"We don't need to cause controversy. Ronaldo as well as Pepe. They have an infectious way of working and give our team important value."
Meanwhile, many Portugal fans took to social media to suggest that they are in fact better off without Ronaldo. One said: "Why do Portugal even call Ronaldo when the have Youngsters like Joao Felix and Goncalo Ramos?? They play better Without Ronaldo Nice goal from my starboy (Felix) tho."
Another added: "Portugal needs to retire Ronaldo, he is too old to compete with these young players, especially since his role requires physical attributes, I don't care how hard he works out, its over once you are like 39." A third said: "G ramos is better, its funny how Portugal win 9 - 0 without ronaldo and struggle with him."
Portugal midfielder Danilo Pereira has backed Ronaldo, however, and believes the result would have been the same if Ronaldo was in action as well. "If Cristiano Ronaldo were here, the result would be the same," the former Paris Saint-Germain ace said. "He would have helped with goals and assists. It wasn't for his absence that this game was won by 8 or 9 goals."