Ronaldo snubbed again: Portugal bench captain as difficult World Cup ends in tears

Were Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal comments sincere? (2:04)

Steve Nicol and Stewart Robson are dubious that Cristiano Ronaldo's comments about Portugal winning the World Cup are truly genuine. (2:04)

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was again left on the bench, this time for Saturday's World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Morocco, as his frustrating tournament took another turn for the worse.

Ronaldo, axed from his country's previous match at the World Cup, had to once again make do with a place among the substitutes for Portugal's last-eight showdown at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.

The former Manchester United striker came on in the 51st minute for his 196th Portugal cap -- equalling the FIFA record for men's international appearances held by Kuwait's Bader Al-Mutawa -- but he was unable to prevent his side falling to a 1-0 loss against Morocco.

Ronaldo was pictured in tears at the end of the match as Portugal crashed out of the tournament in Qatar, with Morocco becoming the first African nation to reach the World Cup semifinals.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos blasted Ronaldo's reaction to being substituted in their 2-1 Group H defeat against South Korea and then dropped him for the round-of-16 match against Switzerland, which Portugal won 6-1. Ronaldo's replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick in the victory and kept his place in the starting XI on Saturday.

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Ronaldo looked visibly frustrated when he was replaced in the 65th minute against South Korea, with cameras catching the 37-year-old appearing to say, "He's in a rush to sub me."

Portugal's Football Federation (FPF) denied media reports that Ronaldo threatened to leave the national team in the wake of Santos' decision to drop the captain, who has found the net once -- a penalty against Ghana in the group stage -- in Qatar. The goal marked a rare high point for Ronaldo at the tournament, making him the first male player to score at five World Cups.

"The FPF clarifies that at no time did the captain of the national team, Cristiano Ronaldo, threaten to leave the national team at any stage in Qatar," the FPF said.

"A group too united to be broken by external forces," Ronaldo said in an Instagram post on Thursday. "A nation too brave to let itself be frightened by any opponent. A team in the truest sense of the word, which will fight for the dream until the end! Believe us! Go ahead, Portugal!"

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Ronaldo is at a crossroads in his career and is a free agent in Qatar, after Manchester United agreed to mutually terminate his contract following an explosive television interview in which he took aim at Erik ten Hag, the United manager, among other targets including United's owners, the Glazer family. Ten Hag said he only discovered that Ronaldo wanted to leave the Premier League club after the forward's tell-all. interview with TalkTV.

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Reports in Spain claimed on Monday that Ronaldo will play for Al-Nassr from Jan. 1, having agreed a 2½-year contract with the Saudi team -- a deal reportedly worth €200 million per season. Ronaldo said after the Switzerland match that the reports are "not true." While Al-Nassr is the best and only offer Ronaldo has on the table, he has not signed anything with any club, sources told ESPN.

The winners of Portugal against Morocco face either England or France in the World Cup semifinals, with Croatia and Argentina booking their places in their last four on Friday.