The dust was yet to settle on Portugal’s costly defeat against Serbia in Lisbon last night and the inquest had already begun. Under-fire Seleção coach Fernando Santos accepted responsibility for the result but remains confident he can guide the team to Qatar (“my team will be at the World Cup in Qatar, that is a guarantee”).
Bernardo Silva (“it was an awful performance”) and João Palhinha (“the dressing room is in bits”), however, did not hold back in assessing a nightmare night for Portugal at the Estádio da Luz.
PortuGOAL rounds up the match reaction.
Fernando Santos, Portugal coach
“We played no better than on Thursday. We started well; we scored a goal. Then we started to not have the ball, drop deep and arrive late to the ball. We found it hard to get our marking right. I tried, the players tried, they fought hard. The message wasn’t to play like that. If the idea was to draw, we wouldn’t have played like this, in a 4-3-3.
“Some players didn’t understand the message in the first half. I explained at the break. I wanted our full-backs to push up, to play further up the pitch, and the game was more balanced, we had fewer difficulties. We created 2 or 3 goal-scoring chances, they did too. We had the clear opportunity with Renato. At a certain point he had to come off, I brought on Bruno to continue to give mobility to the team.
“The Bernardo Silva substitution? He asked me to come off. He was the only player who was getting hold of the ball. I’d have had to be a bit of a fool to take him off because he was the only player who had the ball at his feet and was turning the game in our favour. He’d had (fitness) problems all week, yesterday he trained well, but he signalled to me on the bench that he couldn’t continue.”
“Our DNA is to play with the ball at our feet, but we found it difficult. It’s true that our team lacked personality. Bernardo wanted the ball, but he was the only one. We always played with fear and anxiety, passing from side to side, back to the goalkeeper. The responsibility is mine.
“We have to apologise. The Portuguese people are disappointed, but they are not more disappointed than us. But my team will be at the World Cup in Qatar, that is a guarantee, only we’ll have to do it through a playoff.”
Bernardo Silva, Portugal midfielder
“It was an awful display by Portugal. We scored early and then let them play. It was an awful performance; I can’t explain it. Playing at home in front of 65,000 people we have to do better. The plan was to try and have the ball, which didn’t happen and at no period of the match were we better than Serbia. This is inadmissible and we have to improve in March.”
João Palhinha, Portugal midfielder
“We have to assume our responsibility because we didn’t play a good game. We were too defensive. The changing room is in bits after failing to qualify directly, but now we will go for qualification in the playoff. We defended more than we wanted to. This is tough to take for all of us. We have to react to defeats, life is not just a series of victories.”
Dragan Stojkovic, Serbia coach
“We knew we would play against a great team and it wasn’t easy. Only a win would do. This win has booked our place in the World Cup; mission accomplished. We played with a lot of courage.
“I believed we could win. Even in March, when we started qualification, we knew that the decisive match would be this one, in Lisbon. We managed to consolidate a style of football that allows us to dominate games, no matter who the opposition. We had a lot of faith, the players always believed in what we were saying. This self-confidence emerged at the right time and I want to congratulate all the players for this qualification.”
by Tom Kundert