Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji has called Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo a ‘goal machine’ while saying that it is important to remain close to him in order to prevent the forward from scoring.
The Selecao are set to face the Swiss in the round of 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday. They won Group H after collecting six points in three games, while their opponents came second in Group G.
Switzerland are underdogs on paper here and are wary of Ronaldo, who is most likely to lead the line for Portugal once again. Akanji revealed his plans to stop him.
Speaking to the press ahead of the clash, the Manchester City man said (via GOAL):
“Even though he’s older now, he’s an incredible goal machine. You can’t give him any space in the penalty area. When he gets to the ball, the ball is usually inside. You have to be very close to him.”
Indeed, Cristiano Ronaldo remains a threat inside the box, but he’s had a tough FIFA World Cup campaign in Qatar so far. The 37-year-old scored a penalty in their opening game win over Ghana, but has struggled to make an impact from open play.
His performance in Portugal’s 2-1 loss to South Korea in their final group match was widely deemed the worst of the round, with Ronaldo even responsible for Korea’s first goal.
Age has visibly caught up with him, while his struggles at the club level with Manchester United in the months leading up to the FIFA World Cup are also to play a role here.
If that wasn’t enough, Ronaldo was also named in SofaScore’s worst XI of the group stages with an average rating of just 6.37.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking back on his Nations League heroics against Switzerland for motivation ahead of their FIFA World Cup clash
Just six months ago, Portugal thrashed Switzerland 4-0 in the UEFA Nations League, with Cristiano Ronaldo netting a first-half brace. He could be looking back on that match for motivation ahead of their World Cup clash.
The former Real Madrid ace boasts a good record against the Swiss with five goals against them overall, having also scored a hat-trick in the 2018-19 Nations League semi-finals.
This might just be the fixture he needs to find his feet and salvage his tournament, which is possibly his last in Portuguese colors.