In the absence of the five-time world player of the year and record scorer in men’s internationals, Goncalo Ramos, Goncalo Inacio and Diogo Jota all scored twice along with goals for Ricardo Horta, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix in the Algarve.
The 38-year-old Ronaldo missed a great chance to add to his haul of 123 international goals, but there’ll be four more opportunities in a group that Portugal is dominating with six straight wins. No other team has that many victories in qualifying.
Roberto Martinez’s team stayed five points ahead of Slovakia and moved eight ahead of Luxembourg. The top two in each group qualify automatically.
Ramos scored two of the team’s first three goals as Ronaldo’s replacement, a role he thrives in.
He did it notably at last year’s World Cup in Qatar when — in a huge call by then-coach Fernando Santos — Ronaldo was dropped to the bench for the match against Switzerland in the round of 16.
Ramos scored a hat trick in that game, announcing himself to the soccer world. He has since completed a move from Benfica to Paris Saint-Germain and might be the long-term replacement for Ronaldo, who now plays in Saudi Arabia, for Portugal’s national team that is surely heading to Euro 2024.
Germany’s 13-0 thrashing of San Marino in 2006 remains the biggest-ever win in European Championship qualifying.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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