The Republic of Ireland will face Belgium and Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium in March.

The first of the two friendlies will see Belgium visit Dublin on March 23 for a 5pm kick-off, with Switzerland following three days later at 7.45pm.

Ireland last faced Belgium in a 2-2 draw in March last year, while Switzerland will play a match in Dublin for the first time since a 1-1 draw in September 2019 in a European Championship qualifier.

Ireland are currently without a manager after Stephen Kenny’s contract was not renewed following the end of a disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

They finished fourth in Group B, with their only points coming from two victories against Gibraltar.

Ireland will also play a friendly double-header in June, with the opposition to be announced at a later date, before the start of the Nations League in September.

Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann was relieved to see the Euro 2024 hosts avoid the dreaded 'group of death' at Saturday's draw, but he will not be taking their opponents lightly.

As tournament hosts, Germany were placed into Group A, being joined by Hungary, Scotland and Switzerland.

Germany will face Scotland in the tournament's opening game in Munich on June 14, before taking on Hungary in Stuttgart five days later and rounding off their group against the Swiss in Frankfurt on June 23.

With the likes of Italy, Croatia and the Netherlands lurking outside pot one, Nagelsmann acknowledged Germany could have received a more difficult draw, though he thinks Scotland will pose a particular challenge after impressing in qualifying. 

"I think it’s a very interesting group," the former Bayern Munich boss told ZDF. 

"The opening game against Scotland will of course be emotional. They have great fans, it will be a nice start in Munich. 

"Hungary and Switzerland also have some Bundesliga players, and I've been able to train some of them myself, I know a few players there. There are a few exciting duels. 

"We let the emotions out when the games start, we don't talk too much beforehand, but we have a path that we want to take. 

"It's an interesting group in which we want to assert ourselves, that's clear. 

"It's not a group of death, but there are no really bad opponents if you look at the qualifying rounds. The teams have all left better-rated names behind them."

Rudi Voller, the 1990 World Cup-winning striker who became Germany's national team director in February, echoed Nagelsmann's thoughts after the draw was completed. 

"I'll be honest, there were scenarios with Italy and the Dutch," he said. "If you get into a group with them, it's the so-called group of death. We were spared that. 

"But we are not in a situation where we disrespect any opponents or take them lightly. Those times are over. 

"It's challenging, but I'm especially looking forward to the opening game against the Scots. These are wonderful games. With their fans, who will definitely come to the opening game, it is an honour."

Women’s world champions Spain have been plunged into further chaos after players refused call-ups to their latest squad.

Fifteen World Cup winners were included in the squad for the Nations League games against Sweden and Switzerland, despite saying they would boycott international duty.

A group of 81 players, including all 23 members of the World Cup squad, indicated three weeks ago that they would not play for Spain again while Luis Rubiales remained Spanish football federation (RFEF) president as a result of his behaviour at the final.

Rubiales caused a huge controversy after kissing midfielder Jenni Hermoso – who has been left out of the latest squad – on the lips during the medal ceremony following the team’s 1-0 victory over England. Hermoso insists she did not consent to the kiss.

Amid increasing pressure, Rubiales finally resigned from his post last week, but 39 players, including 21 World Cup winners, released a statement on Friday saying that was not enough to trigger their return to national-team duty.

The players said they were not yet “in a safe place” to return and that the problems at the RFEF ran far deeper than Rubiales.

However, despite their pledge to boycott, many were still named in Monday’s squad by new head coach Montse Tome, who said Hermoso had been left out for her own protection.

In response, the players released a statement on Monday night which read: “What was expressed in our statement of September 22, 2023, makes clear and without any option for another interpretation our firm will not to be summoned for justified reasons. These statements are still fully valid.

“During the days following that statement, we want to make it known to the public that nothing different has been transmitted to any member of the RFEF, so we expressly ask that the information transmitted publicly be rigorous.

“As elite professional players and after everything that has happened today, we will study the possible legal consequences to which the RFEF exposes us by putting us on a list from which we had asked not to be called for reasons already explained publicly and in more detail to the RFEF, and with this make the best decision for our future and for our health.

“It does seem relevant to us to point out, in this sense, that the call has not been made in a timely manner, in accordance with article 3.2 of annex one of FIFA’s regulations on the status and transfer of players, so we understand that the RFEF is not in a position to require us to go.”

New head coach Tome said Spain were still “counting on” Hermoso, despite her omission from their first squad since lifting the World Cup.

“We stand with Jenni,” she told a press conference. “We believe that the best way to protect her is like this, but we are counting on Jenni.

“It’s the start of a new phase, the clock is ticking. There is nothing behind us and we really want to connect with these players.”

Rubiales has been banned from going within 200 metres of Hermoso as the national court in Madrid considered a complaint of sexual assault, something the 46-year-old denies.

Tome had been due to name her squad on Friday, but the announcement had to be delayed.

Barcelona’s Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro, who were not included in Spain’s World Cup party after signing a letter protesting against former manager Jorge Vilda, who was sacked during the fallout of Rubiales’ actions, were included in Monday’s squad.

An emotional Andy Murray broke down in tears at the end of an epic Davis Cup win over Swiss debutant Leandro Riedi after revealing he was missing his grandmother’s funeral to play in the tie.

Murray needed all his nous to grind out a 6-7 (7) 6-4 6-4 victory in three hours and 10 minutes at Manchester’s AO Arena, giving Great Britain a 1-0 lead over Switzerland.

At the end of what had been a light-hearted on-court interview, the Scot choked up, revealing the added significance of his victory.

“Today is a tough day for me, it’s my gran’s funeral today,” he said. “I’m sorry to my family that I’m not able to be there but gran, this one’s for you.”

Murray then returned to his bench where he sat sobbing into his towel.

It made his efforts in coming through another long and tense battle even more impressive.

Murray had only lost three of his previous 35 singles matches in the competition and never to a player ranked as low as world number 152 Riedi, but the big-hitting 21-year-old produced a performance well above that.

Having seen his gamble to play debutant Jack Draper and Dan Evans handsomely pay off in Wednesday’s victory over Australia, captain Leon Smith made use of his options by naming Murray and Cameron Norrie as his singles players here.

Evans’ 0-5 record against Wawrinka may have played a part in his thinking along perhaps with caution not to overplay Draper considering his physical fragility this year.

Murray played singles against Kazakhstan at the same stage last year but only once Britain were already eliminated, making this his first live singles rubber in the competition since 2019 and only his second in seven years.

Switzerland also sprung a surprise by picking Riedi ahead of their number two Dominic Stricker, and Murray admitted that had thrown him having prepared to face a left-hander.

After negotiating an 11-minute first game, the Scot broke serve immediately and had a chance to open up a 4-0 lead.

He could not take it, though, and Riedi worked his way into the contest, beginning to cause Murray increasing problems with his big forehand and aggressive tactics.

They earned him a break back when the Scot served for the set at 5-3, and Murray was then unable to take two set points in the tie-break, Riedi converting his first opportunity with his 22nd winner.

The young Swiss, who had never previously beaten a top-50 player, had his tail up and Murray kicked his bag in frustration after failing to break in the third game of the second set.

He finally made the breakthrough at 3-3 when Riedi double-faulted, only for the 21-year-old to leave his opponent rooted to the spot with a series of blistering returns.

Undeterred, Murray engineered another break and this time held onto it with trademark grim determination to level the match.

The 36-year-old has been in similar situations hundreds of times during his career and ultimately experience won out, although it was still nip and tuck, with Murray slamming his racket to the court after handing an early break back in the decider.

He broke again to lead 3-2, though, and quashed Riedi’s hopes of a comeback by taking his first match point with an ace.

Murray said: “It’s obviously incredible to get through that one, it easily could have gone the other way.

“It was ridiculous the shots he was pulling off, amazing, amazing returning. I kept fighting and tried to stay focused and managed to turn it round.”

Leon Smith is expecting a highly motivated Switzerland on the other side of the net as Great Britain try to maintain their Davis Cup momentum in Manchester on Friday.

Britain began their campaign at a packed AO Arena on Wednesday with a 2-1 upset victory over last year’s runners-up Australia.

That gave them a great chance of righting the wrongs of last year, when they were eliminated after only two matches of the group stage in Glasgow, and progressing to finals week in Malaga in November but there is still a lot of work to do.

Switzerland, led by three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka, are already in the last-chance saloon having lost 3-0 to France in their opener on Tuesday.

“This is just the start, that’s what we talked about,” said captain Smith after watching debutant Jack Draper and Dan Evans pull off impressive wins against Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex De Minaur, respectively.

“We’ve got a massive match on Friday against Switzerland, who obviously lost 3-0 so they’re going to have to come out and do something.

“They’re going to have high motivation and they’ll be playing with a crowd this time, which obviously Stan wasn’t happy with the other day.”

Wawrinka took to social media to voice his dissatisfaction with the small turnout for their meeting against France but a similar crowd to Wednesday’s 9,290 is expected on Friday.

Given their performances against Australia, Evans and Draper are the front-runners to keep their singles spots ahead of top-ranked Cameron Norrie and Andy Murray, but Smith may yet spring another surprise.

Evans had a strong record against De Minaur but has lost all five meetings with Wawrinka, while Swiss number two Dominic Stricker beat fellow 21-year-old Draper at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals in their only previous match.

Smith welcomes the dilemma, though, adding: “People keep saying you’ve got really difficult selections – well, I’d rather that way to what it was many moons ago.

“I think it’s great, I think it’s testament to all the guys that everyone’s playing at the top of their game.

“We’ve got to weigh everything up because people have played a lot of tennis as well, potentially look at match-ups, but we discuss it as a group and ultimately we’ll make a call on it.”

Draper has managed only 10 tournaments this season because of a succession of injuries, the latest of which to his left shoulder saw him retire at the French Open and then miss Wimbledon, dropping him out of the top 100.

But time on the sidelines has not affected the Londoner’s ability to look like a top-10 player in the making and a run to the fourth-round of the US Open was his best yet at a grand slam.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging year for me,” he said. “I started the year at 38 in the world, everything was going great, and then just got hit by a load of injuries really. Maybe a few mistakes that I’ll learn from and stuff I could have done better.

“The one before Wimbledon was a real blow, I couldn’t play for a month or two, I spent loads of time in a bit of a rut trying to get out of it.

“I worked really hard to get myself back, I knew my time would come again because my tennis has always been there.

“New York was a massive boost for me, I needed it. Then coming here I’ve been really confident.

“It’s all coming together so hopefully I can just keep on going to the end of the season and finish really strong.”

Reigning double-sprint Olympic Champion, Elaine Thompson-Herah continues to show signs of a potential return to top form in 2024 after a season’s best 10.92 to win at the Gala dei Castelli, a World Athletics Continental Tour Silver meet in Bellinzola, Switzerland on Monday.

Thompson-Herah, who has endured a season riddled with injuries, took the win ahead of Great Britain’s Imani Lansiquot (10.99), her first time below 11 seconds, and Gambia’s Gina Bass (11.12).

This was only Thompson-Herah’s second 100m race since finishing fifth at the Jamaican trials in July. She ran 11.00 for second at the Zurich Diamond League on August 31.

The 31-year-old was a member of Jamaica’s silver medal 4x100m team at the recently concluded World Championships in Budapest where she ran in the heats.

On the men’s side, Oblique Seville ran 10.01 to take the win ahead of Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala (10.04) and South Africa’s Akani Simbine (10.12).

Seville narrowly missed out on a medal in Budapest, finishing fourth in 9.88, the same time credited to bronze medallist, Zharnel Hughes.

Another 100m finalist in Budapest, Ryiem Forde, was seventh in 10.28 on Monday.

Natoya Goule-Toppin rebounded from a sub-par showing in Budapest to take the 800m in 1:57.53, a new meet record.

The USA’s Addison Wiley ran a personal best 1:57.64 in second while Switzerland’s Audrey Werro ran a national record 1:58.13 in third.

Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, who was upset by Danielle Williams in Budapest, came out on top with a meet record 12.56 in the 100m hurdles. The Netherlands’ Nadine Visser ran a season’s best 12.61 in second while the USA’s Nia Ali ran 12.63 in third.

Shashalee Forbes, a member of Jamaica's silver-medal winning 4x100m team in Budapest, ran 22.74 for second in the 200m behind the USA's Tamara Clark (22.64). Italy's Dalia Kaddari ran 22.86 for third.

Orlando Bennett ran 13.40 for third in the men’s 110m hurdles won by Switzerland’s Jason Joseph in 13.18. Senegal’s Louis Francois Mendy was second in 13.29.

In the field, 2019 World Championship silver-medallist Fedrick Dacres threw 66.19m for third in the discus behind World Champion Daniel Stahl (67.24m) and Kristjan Ceh (67.15m).

Elie Youan believes Hibernian have earned the right to dream of the Europa Conference League group stage after seeing off Luzern to set up a play-off against Aston Villa.

Hibs will host Villa in the first leg next Wednesday after a 2-2 draw in Switzerland sealed a 5-3 aggregate win.

Youan played a major role in the triumph, scoring an early opener in Lucerne before setting up Martin Boyle to level on the night and thrill the Hibs fans, who have seen their team lose their opening two league games.

Youan told the club’s website: “It was a very tough game. We beat them at home so we knew what to expect from them. We knew they would be attacking, but we expected this type of game.

“We handled it very well, got ourselves a draw and now were through to the next round.

“It was important for us not to lose after the result against Motherwell at the weekend.

“The fans made a lot of effort to travel out to Switzerland, some made a lot of long journeys to get here so it was very important to win for them.”

The former Nantes and St Gallen player added: “It was a special, special night. It was even more special for me because I was back here in Switzerland. I played here for one-year-and-a-half in Switzerland and I’ve never won in Luzern so that was an added bonus.”

Youan is looking to create even more special memories by dumping Villa out of the competition.

“If we want to get to the Conference League groups then we have to beat a good team,” the 24-year-old said.

“We can keep dreaming – anything can happen in this competition.”

Hibs will first have to take care of a Viaplay Cup second-round clash Raith Rovers at Easter Road on Sunday and manager Lee Johnson knows he faces some tough decisions.

Johnson admitted after last Sunday’s defeat by Motherwell that his squad were struggling to meet their early-season demands and a fixture clash with Hearts means his players will have one day less to recover and prepare for their next European game.

Johnson told Hibs TV: “Obviously we are going to have to play at 5.45 on Wednesday and a Sunday game, and I know how important the Sunday one is to all of us as well.

“Listen, we have got to find the energy from somewhere, whether that’s changing the team or the boys just resting and recovering, because it’s a big game. It’s a big game for them and a big game for us, and then obviously we go into Aston Villa on Wednesday.”

Johnson will be without the suspended Rocky Bushiri against Raith, while Dylan Levitt is ruled out with an ankle injury that will be assessed in the coming days.

Hibernian set up a glamour tie with Aston Villa after goals from Elie Youan and Martin Boyle earned a 2-2 draw against Luzern in Switzerland.

Hibs progressed 5-3 on aggregate to secure a Europa Conference League play-off against a Villa side captained by former Easter Road hero John McGinn, who was part of their 2016 Scottish Cup-winning team.

Youan fired Hibs into an early lead and set up Boyle to level the tie on the night in the 73rd minute, soon after Luzern had got within one goal on the aggregate score.

Villa are scheduled to visit Edinburgh for the first leg next Thursday.

Hibs had extended their first-leg lead in stoppage-time at Easter Road last week and they started where they finished as they attacked their hosts.

Boyle was impeded in the penalty box in the act of shooting but was penalised for catching his opponent and Josh Campbell shot straight at the home goalkeeper.

Hibs went three up on aggregate when Youan struck in the 10th minute. The wide player picked up a loose ball on the halfway line following a Luzern throw-in, ran to the edge of the box and hit a shot which hit a defender and looped over the goalkeeper.

Luzern hit back six minutes later after a switch of play put Hibs on the back foot. David Marshall made an excellent stop but the ball was cut back across goal for Jakub Kadak to finish from six yards.

Hibs continued to pose a threat and Dylan Vente headed over unchallenged from six yards.

Boyle soon raced clear after a brilliant piece of skill and went down just outside the box after Nicky Beloko grabbed his arm, but the referee played on.

Pius Dorn twice threatened for Luzern before the break, being denied by Marshall’s stop and then Vente’s headed clearance.

Hibs defended deep after the interval, with Dylan Levitt forced off injured in the 52nd minute after rolling his ankle while charging down a shot.

The home pressure paid off midway through the half when Kemal Ademi got goal-side of Paul Hanlon at a corner to convert a free header from five yards.

But Hibs did not allow their hosts to build any more momentum and killed off the home fans’ hopes in Lucerne when they netted on the counter-attack after the ball was launched forward.

Youan outmuscled defender Marco Burch, who responded by trying to grab the Hibs winger’s shirt. Burch bizarrely stopped looking for a free-kick of his own after getting Yoaun’s arm in his throat but the referee played on and Youan got to the byline.

Boyle had peeled off his marker and swept a left-footed shot under the goalkeeper after meeting Youan’s cutback from six yards out to send the Hibs fans wild.

Lee Johnson’s men survived a couple of scares in stoppage-time to set up an all-British tie.

Rangers manager Michael Beale praised his side for digging deep and finding the answers in Switzerland after James Tavernier’s equaliser sent them into the Champions League play-offs.

Last season’s cinch Premiership runners-up will face PSV Eindhoven next Tuesday at Ibrox after James Tavernier’s equaliser sealed a 1-1 draw against Servette and a 3-2 aggregate win in the third qualifying round.

Jack Butland made one-on-one stops either side of Dereck Kutesa’s excellent finish midway through the first half in Geneva and Danilo squandered a glorious opportunity for Rangers before the break.

Rangers continued with a midfield diamond after the interval but were far more effective and they forced two saves before Tavernier headed home a Borna Barisic cross five minutes after the interval.

Cyriel Dessers missed two good chances to put the game out of sight but Rangers were generally comfortable as Servette tried to force extra time.

Beale told Rangers TV: “We didn’t do well enough first half, I thought we were passive and obviously they scored and the crowd were up in the stadium.

“We had a wonderful chance ourselves with Dani and obviously he misses and we go in at half-time and had to have a strong conversation.

“We were much better second half, we got the full-backs higher. Borna, a fantastic cross, and Tav, something we have seen for a number of years, it was a wonderful goal.”

Beale added: “The game is 90 minutes plus and sometimes you have got to solve the problem as you go through the game.

“The second half was much, much better, more energy and more running forward, and in the end we saw the game out well. We were unfortunate not to score one or two more.

“This was a tough night. The pitch was extreme and the pitch was very slow and sticky, the home fans were up. We had to dig deep and we got the job done.

“When you are 1-0 down you are looking for a response from the players and we certainly had that after half-time.

“Dujon Sterling came on and did well for the team, as well. I have to say Jack Butland was outstanding and that’s why we recruited him.”

James Tavernier’s equaliser sent Rangers into the Champions League play-offs as an improved second-half display in Switzerland saw them overcome Servette.

Tavernier’s header five minutes after the break sealed a 1-1 draw which handed Michael Beale’s side a 3-2 aggregate win.

Rangers had failed to test the home goalkeeper in the first half and might have been further behind at the interval but they were the better side after the break and had chances to win the second leg.

The result sets Rangers up for a repeat of last year’s play-off against PSV Eindhoven as the cinch Premiership runners-up bid for a second consecutive campaign in the group stages.

Beale brought Connor Goldson and Ryan Jack back into the team after resting the pair for Saturday’s league win over Livingston and the Gers manager changed his formation from the team’s usual 4-3-3 to a midfield diamond spearheaded by Todd Cantwell. Danilo and Abdallah Sima started up front.

Beale had stated they had come to Geneva to win the game and Rangers attacked in the early stages but Jose Cifuentes scuffed a left-footed effort from their first shooting chance.

The visitors were soon cut open by a slick move but Jack Butland made a brilliant stop at full stretch to deny Timothe Cognat.

The home side took the lead midway through the half. John Souttar came out second best from a challenge following a long ball and both Cifuentes and Tavernier were slow to react to the danger following a blocked shot. Dereck Kutesa had time and space to execute a glorious finish into the far top corner.

The unmarked Danilo had a brilliant chance to level on the half-hour mark but the Brazilian missed the target from inside the six-yard box following Cifuentes’ deep cross.

Servette could have gone ahead in the tie when Souttar was caught trying to play offside as Kutesa ran on to a through-ball from just inside his own half. The goalscorer forced a good stop from Butland from a tight angle but he had a team-mate completely unmarked in the middle.

Rangers maintained their formation at the start of the second half but they showed more urgency and both Nicolas Raskin and Cantwell had efforts saved before Tavernier got in front of his marker and headed home from close range after Borna Barisic whipped in a dangerous cross.

Rangers looked comfortable and Raskin was wide from a half-chance before substitute Cyriel Dessers missed two good opportunities. The Nigeria international headed over and then hit the post from eight yards after being set up by Cantwell.

Servette managed to exert some late pressure but Rangers stood firm and the hosts missed two decent chances in quick succession in stoppage time.

Beale’s side now host PSV at Ibrox in the first leg of the play-offs next Tuesday.

Lee Johnson knows Hibernian have only done half a job after they earned a commanding two-goal advantage in their Europa Conference League tie against Luzern.

Joe Newell’s opener just 18 seconds into the second half was cancelled out by Ismajl Beka’s header.

But debutant Dylan Vente and Jordan Obita scored to put Hibs in a strong position heading into next Thursday’s second leg in Switzerland.

And Johnson, whose side opened their Premiership campaign with a 3-2 home defeat to St Mirren on Sunday, has told his players they have now set a standard they must reach in every game.

He said: “It’s half-time. I said in Andorra when we lost 2-1 (against Inter d’Escaldes in the previous round) that it was half-time and I’ll say that now when we’ve got a plus-two lead.

“I really like Luzern. They’re a real quality side – brilliant in terms of that education for the club, for myself, for the players.

“And I was really proud today, for the whole club. We took a bit of stick, and rightly so, for our first-half performance the other day (against St Mirren).

“But that’s what Hibs is about. The crowd were up – 13,000 felt like 25,000 – the boys were making big tackles, they had pressure on everywhere.

“But we’ve got to do that in every game. That’s a marker now for this group.

“I honestly think it’s nowhere near done, genuinely. I think they’re a really good side. They’ve got threats and quality everywhere.

“We’re extremely proud tonight but nothing is done in the tie.”

Johnson also hailed debutant Vente, whose work permit issues following his move from Roda JC in the Netherlands were resolved on the eve of the tie.

He added: “I’m delighted for Dylan. I was getting a bit of stick before the game about the team selection, and I was quite surprised. I thought it was quite a bold one.

“Dylan was excellent. Obviously he had a goal and an assist. But, for me, I thought it was more about his work-rate and how hard he worked.

“I thought him and Alfie (Adam Le Fondre) worked their socks off and they’re dangerous.”

Meanwhile, Luzern manager Mario Frick admits his side have a mountain to climb.

He said: “The second half started with a gift from our side when they scored the first goal and, of course, with the support of the fans it got difficult.

“But we were still in the game and we had our chances and the equaliser came pretty quickly.

“Then, it was 2-1 and again a gift from our side and it became a nightmare. It’s a difficult situation for the second leg now.

“Can we progress in the second leg? Not if we play like today. We have to get back to our real game to have a chance.

“It’s not impossible but it’s a very difficult situation.”

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.

Xherdan Shaqiri apologised for Switzerland's performance in their 6-1 loss to Portugal, crediting their opponents but saying: "We have to do better."

Switzerland exited the World Cup with a dismal last-16 defeat, completely outclassed by a Portugal side who had left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.

Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo and scored one of two first-half goals before completing a hat-trick in a rampant second half.

Murat Yakin's men were never in the contest, only reducing the arrears when Manuel Akanji bundled in from a corner to make it 4-1.

"We are all disappointed, the whole team," Shaqiri said afterwards. "I just want to apologise to all the people in Switzerland, because we were not at our best today.

"We lost the game already in the first half against Portugal, who are a very good team. You saw the kind of goal they can score. With all respect, we have to do better.

"We have to learn from our mistakes, and if we are behind 2-0 against Portugal, it's always very, very difficult to come back. We just were not at our best today, from everybody."

Yakin had changed system, starting with a three-man defence, but he did not believe this was the problem for his side.

"We had a clear plan, we have practised it, we also had test games, the team was familiar with the system," the Switzerland coach said. "We tried to put pressure on using the flanks, but unfortunately it didn't work.

"Ronaldo or not, our players are able to play in every position. Yes, our opponents got a good start in the game, we saw many things not work out for us. There's nothing we could've done today."

Shaqiri did not dwell on Ronaldo's omission, indicating the depth of talent Portugal have at their disposal.

"It's the whole team," he said. "You saw today: he was on the bench, and they scored a lot of goals, too. The quality is there from the whole team, and we saw this today."

The winger added: "Portugal is for me a favourite and also was before the tournament. They have a good team, a quality team, and we will see in the end how far they're going to go.

"You saw today, in the offensive, they are very good. They can go very far."

Joao Felix appeared to take a swipe at Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone by stating conditions with Portugal are more "favourable" than with the LaLiga giants.

The Atleti forward has been linked with a move away from the Wanda Metropolitano, with Los Rojiblancos chief executive Gil Marin believing a January exit is "reasonable" to expect.

Joao Felix has scored 33 goals for Atleti since arriving from Benfica for €126million in 2019 - a tally only bettered by Luis Suarez (34) during that span.

But the 23-year-old has a frosty relationship with Simeone, with the pair reportedly falling out earlier this season. 

And he appeared to aim a dig at his club boss after Portugal booked their World Cup quarter-final place with a comprehensive 6-1 rout of Switzerland on Tuesday.

"The way you play here and at the club are different," he said. "When the conditions are favourable, things go better."

Joao Felix set up two of Goncalo Ramos' three goals against the Swiss, becoming the third Portugal player to provide two assists in a World Cup game after Jose Torres - against Brazil in 1966 - and Bruno Fernandes - versus Ghana in this tournament.

He saluted Portugal's most impressive performance so far in Qatar, where he feels confidence and concentration levels are high in Fernando Santos' side ahead of facing Morocco in the last eight.

"The preparation was the same as the other games," he added. "We saw what was best and worst and played because of that, not losing our identity. We played a great game, perhaps the best so far.

"We are focused and believe completely in us. I hope it's been shown that we have a great team, we know what we want. We have the support of everyone, and won't be held back."

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