In a candid press conference on Sunday, Portugal coach Fernando Santos described how the debacle that was Portugal’s 4-2 defeat against Germany had left the squad extremely downhearted. However, the veteran coach said lessons would be learned and even predicted that if the two teams were to meet again in the final of Euro 2020 it would be the Portuguese who would come out on top.
Meanwhile, results in the other groups have gone Portugal’s way, with the Seleção almost certain to reach the knockout phase provided they avoid a heavy defeat in their final Group F match against France on Wednesday. On the injury front João Félix is fit again but Nuno Mendes is still unavailable for selection. PortuGOAL rounds up the latest from the Portugal camp.
In an unusual and commendable move, Santos called an unexpected press conference on Sunday to explain some aspects of the disappointing performance against Germany and how it had affected the squad.
Santos has been pilloried in the Portuguese press for his failure to react in-game to Germany’s ascendence on the flanks, but having analysed the match the veteran coach identified the problem. “We needed to put another man next to the centre-backs, so we weren’t pulled out of position and so we could have avoided five-against-four situations, and that’s why I inverted the triangle in midfield, but we couldn’t control Germany’s game.”
Santos also talked about Portugal’s lack of aggressiveness (Germany’s three front players committed more fouls than the whole of Portugal’s team) and defended the target of particularly harsh criticism, Nelson Semedo, explaining that the right-back was left having to mark two players and took the right decision to cover the man inside, thus leaving the wide player (Gosens) in space.
“But we have learned from our mistakes. If it’s a Portugal-Germany final, Portugal will win.”
Santos went on to explain how the mood in the camp was sombre after the match, with almost nothing said on the flight back from Munich to Budapest, “which is perfectly understandable.”
“When we got back we ate and then each player went to their rooms. It’s a very individual moment; we were feeling down. It affects some more than others, but everyone was down, without exception. Today (Sunday) at lunch the mood was a little better, but it was still like waking up from a dream, which had turned into a nightmare.
“Afterwards we all got together, and started talking normally, not only the players but the whole delegation, and we were obviously supporting each other and lifting one another. Now the group is cheerful again.”
Dropped to the bench “not a punishment”
Santos said changes would be made against France, although he was at pains to point out that nobody was being scapegoated. “We’ve had two very intense games; you only need look at the kilometres the players have run, in addition to strategic changes. They (the changes) should not be seen as a punishment. I don’t work like that.”
On Monday, Portugal’s second highest caps holder, João Moutinho, spoke to the press and reiterated that the squad was now fully focused on the France match.
“We weren’t the best team after beating Hungary, and we’re not the worst team after losing to Germany,” said the Wolves midfielder. “The sour feeling is going away. Your face when you win is never the same as your face when you lose. We were disappointed but we have to look at things realistically. As each day that goes by we are thinking about the next task, with is the game against France. We want to give a better image than in our last game.
“France have a great team. We can highlight the three forwards, but they have other players who can do damage. We want to impose our game. The Portugal team has shown it has the quality to overcome difficulties. We have to defend well and attack well, at the right moments.”
Favourable results boost Portugal’s chances
Portugal play France on Wednesday evening in the final Group F match. Given the format of the competition and results on Monday night, Portugal are now well placed to make progress to the knockout stage of the tournament.
The Seleção will be in the round of 16 provided two circumstances are avoided:
- Portugal cannot lose against France by a margin of more than two goals.
- Any defeat coupled with a Hungary victory against Germany will also knock out Portugal as in this case they will finish bottom of the group.
Atletico Madrid forward João Félix has been integrated into normal training following his muscle strain issue and is available for selection against France. Left-back Nuno Mendes continues to sit out the group sessions, and was limited to doing light jogging as he too tries to shake off a muscle injury. The Sporting defender remains a doubt for Wednesday’s clash.
By Tom Kundert