Portugal were knocked out of the World Cup by Morocco (Picture: Getty)
Gary Neville says it was ‘horrible’ watching his former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo break down in tears after Portugal’s World Cup exit.
Portugal’s World Cup run was ended by Morocco on Saturday as Walid Regragui’s side became the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final.
Ronaldo, dropped earlier in the tournament, came off the bench after half-time to equal the men’s all-time appearance record of 196 international matches.
But the 37-year-old, who was released by Man United last month, could not help Portugal score an equaliser as Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half goal settled the quarter-final.
After seeing his dreams dashed in what will almost certainly be his final World Cup, Ronaldo walked straight down the tunnel in tears at full-time.
Ronaldo angered Manchester United and several club legends in a controversial interview he gave to Piers Morgan last month but Neville was nevertheless able to sympathise with his former team-mate.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo said he had ‘no respect’ for United manager Erik ten Hag and accused Neville and Wayne Rooney of repeatedly criticising him.
Ronaldo was seen crying in the tunnel (Picture: Twitter)
‘I do want to mention Cristiano Ronaldo because I saw that image of him crying in the tunnel,’ Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast.
‘That was a horrible image for me. That’s that moment where he knows his dream of winning the World Cup for his country has gone.
‘We’ve all been there at the end of our careers, but he’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of all time. It was horrible to see him like that. He’s had a tough couple of months.’
Portugal’s defeat means Morocco progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup where they will face defending champions France, who beat England later in the day.
In the other semi-final, 2018 runners-up Croatia will look to make successive World Cup finals at the expense of Argentina, who beat Netherlands on penalties in the last round.
Ronaldo addressed Portugal’s World Cup exit for the first time on Sunday, writing on Instagram: ‘Winning a World Cup for Portugal was the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career.
‘Fortunately, I won many titles of international dimension, including for Portugal, but putting the name of our country on the biggest one in the world was my biggest dream.
‘I battled for it. I fought hard for this dream. In the five presences that I scored in World Cups over 16 years, always alongside great players and supported by millions of Portuguese people, I gave it my all.
‘I left everything on the pitch. I never gave up the fight or dream. Unfortunately, yesterday the dream ended.
‘It is not worth reacting too hot. I just want everyone to know that much has been said, much has been written, much has been speculated, but my dedication to Portugal has never changed for an instant.
‘I was always one more person fighting for everyone’s goal and I would never turn my back on my teammates and my country.
‘For now, there’s not much more to say. Thank you, Portugal. Thank you, Qatar. The dream was beautiful while it lasted… Now, it’s time to allow history to tell the story and for each one to draw their own conclusions.’
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‘He’s had a tough couple of months.’