Portugal face Germany in Munich tomorrow, hoping to make it three victories in the row in “away” stadiums at European Championships. The Seleção won the Euro 2016 final in Paris against France, and beat Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday, on both occasions in a stadium packed with fans rooting for their opponents.
Fernando Santos confirmed Portugal have one injury absentee, left-back Nuno Mendes, and despite showing confidence the veteran coach refused to go along with the idea that the Seleção were favourites going into the match.
“I think Portugal is now a team that commands more respect. Other teams previously looked at Portugal as a good team but deep down they thought they were stronger. Nowadays, there is no team in the world that will face Portugal and win easily. But are Portugal favourites? Thinking that Portugal are favourites against Germany, in a game played in Germany, is going too far.
“We have to be very strong at all times and improve on what we did against Hungary, defending very well and having the capacity to create opportunities. If you watched Germany-France carefully, you would have seen that Germany pushed France back. The final result does not mirror what happened in the game. It’s a very important game for us. We want to have the ball and not lose it very often.
“France played a fantastic game against Germany, denying them spaces behind. Germany’s game, even playing through the lines, can surprise their opponents behind the defence with the passes of Kroos, for example. An essential weapon is to have the ball and force them to have it far from our goal.
“Against France there were times when Kimmich played more inside in a dynamic manner. They can play 4-3-3 or 3-4-3. We have to be ready for whatever our opponents ask of us.”
Dias: “Two of the best teams in the tournament”
Rúben Dias was Portugal’s designated player at the pre-match press conference. The centre-back echoed his coach’s thoughts, saying that only by being at their best can the Seleção hope to obtain the desired result.
On Germany: “We’re going to face a high-level team, one of the best in the tournament. We must be aware that although we started the Euro well, we need to keep our feet on the ground and understand that we have to play even better to win this game. It will be two very strong teams going head-to-head; two of the best in this European Championship, with a dominating style of play.”
On season at Manchester City: “The matches and competitions I played in during the season prepared me for a tournament like this. It was tiring, it’s true, but I would say that the season has prepared me to be at the highest level.”
Did you speak to Gundogan about the game? “Actually I did, but it was nothing special. But I wish him good luck. We know Germany well, we know what are capable of and the players they have, but we’ve got our weapons too.”
On more than 60 games played this season: “That just serves as another factor of motivation. I like to push myself to the limit, to do things that nobody else had done. I’m motivated to show to myself that I’m in good shape physically and I’m strong.”
by Tom Kundert