Fernando Santos had been angered by Ronaldo’s attitude after being substituted in their defeat to South Korea and the veteran coach took the opportunity to bench the out-of-form 37-year-old on Tuesday.
It took Ramos 17 minutes to do what Ronaldo has never done for Portugal: score in a World Cup knockout game, and he would ultimately have a hand in four goals.
Pepe, captain in Ronaldo’s absence, got Portugal’s second and Ramos also teed up Raphael Guerreiro, with Manuel Akanji’s consolation for Switzerland prior to Ramos’ hat-trick goal and Rafael Leao’s late stunner a mere footnote.
Ramos’ opener was entirely out of keeping with a dull opening.
Joao Felix passed into the left side of the area and, after taking a touch, Ramos sent a bullet of a left-footed strike into the top-left corner from a tight angle.
A fingertip Diogo Costa save from Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick just before the half-hour kept Portugal in front and they capitalised three minutes later as Pepe headed home Bruno Fernandes’ corner.
Any hope of a turnaround was swiftly put down by two goals early in the second half.
Ramos first turned in Diogo Dalot’s low cross before the striker unselfishly teed up Guerreiro.
Akanji knocked in at the back post after a Portugal defender inadvertently flicked on a corner, but the deficit was four again soon after – Ramos’ impudent dink over Yann Sommer completing a memorable treble.
He was later brought off as Ronaldo – who had a late goal disallowed for offside – entered, but Portugal were not done yet, with Leao burying a gorgeous curler in stoppage time.
Portugal player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Diogo Costa – 5/10 – Another performance with a couple of wobbles from Costa despite having little to do in way of making saves.
RB: Diogo Dalot – 8/10 – Preferred over Joao Cancelo, the Manchester United right-back shut Ruben Vargas out of the game and got an assist for his troubles.
CB: Pepe – 8/10 – The oldest scorer in the history of the World Cup knockout stages. Defended with his trademark resiliency and aggression.
CB: Ruben Dias – 6/10 – Found it hard dealing with the physicality and intelligence of Embolo, but that hardly mattered.
LB: Raphael Guerreiro – 8/10 – Enjoyed going forward and was hardly troubled by Sow. Took his goal like a veteran striker.
CM: William Carvalho – 8/10 – Won his matchup against the in-form Xhaka.
CM: Otavio – 8/10 – Came in for Ruben Neves and didn’t miss a beat in midfield. His quick feet alongside the seasoned Carvalho worked a treat.
RM: Bernardo Silva – 7/10 – Flittered between the lines and opened the game up on the counter attack. Occasionally dropped into a deeper midfield role.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 9/10 – Just like at club level, Fernandes benefitted without Ronaldo clogging up his sight-lines. Led Portugal’s attacks and was always a threat, whether directly or providing for others.
LM: Joao Felix – 9/10 – On a day where Atletico Madrid’s club president admitted he could leave the club, Felix put himself in the shop window with a majestic creative display coming in off the left.
CF: Goncalo Ramos – 10/10 – Silenced the doubters who suggested he shouldn’t have been the man to replace Ronaldo very quickly. Bullied Switzerland with his blend of physicality and technique. Has more hat-trick goals in the World Cup knockouts than Ronaldo even has goal involvements in them.
Cristiano Ronaldo (73′ for Ramos) – 5/10
Vitinha (73′ for Otavio) – 6/10
Ricardo Horta (73′ for Otavio) – 6/10
Ruben Neves (81′ for Silva) – N/A
Rafael Leao (87′ for Fernandes) – N/A
Fernando Santos – 9/10 – Made a huge, ballsy call to drop Ronaldo (finally) and it paid off.