SARANSK, Russia (AP) - Criticized back home and spurned by many of Portugal's fans, Ricardo Quaresma sat on the bench for his team's opening two World Cup matches.
He finally got some playing time in the third on Monday, and he scored in the 1-1 draw against Iran that earned Portugal a spot in the round of 16.
"Yes, this goal is an answer," Quaresma said, referring to the flak he has been taking in Portugal. "It was a great goal. I was lucky to hit it where I had to."
Portugal's Ricardo Quaresma, left, celebrates scoring his team's opening goal along with teammate Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo during the group B match between Iran and Portugal at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, Russia, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
The veteran striker scored a spectacular goal with the outside of his foot at the Mordovia Arena - a shot likely to be remembered by all those who had wanted him to stay home.
The 34-year-old Quaresma was picked by coach Fernando Santos to replace Goncalo Guedes. He was applauded by the fans in Saransk when he left the field in the middle of the second half.
Quaresma said the same critics didn't want him to play at the 2016 European Championship in France. But Portugal came back from that tournament as champions and Quaresma was seen as a key leader of that squad.
"I still have a lot to offer," said Quaresma, who plays for Turkish club Besiktas. "People can say whatever they want."
Portugal finished second in Group B and will next face Uruguay in Sochi on Saturday. Quaresma said he didn't know if he would play in that match, but he still had praise for Santos.
"Our coach has the power to take the best of us," Quaresma said. "We had a very tough group in the World Cup and now a different tournament begins. He will be even more important now."
Quaresma also praised teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed a penalty in the match against Iran but has scored four goals at this year's World Cup.
"I don't know what else Cristiano has to do for Portugal," Quaresma said. "He is the key to our success."