Fernando Santos: “I see total focus and a fantastic spirit in my players”

One day before the Seleção take their bow at World Cup 2022, head coach Fernando Santos has reiterated that his squad are in good shape ahead of the Group H clash against Ghana.

Santos talked about his players being totally focused but aware of the difficulties that they would face, while again dismissing the notion that the noise surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo would negatively affect Portugal’s campaign. 

Ghana challenge

Fernando Santos: “Winning a tournament like this is extremely difficult for any team, for any country. You only need look at these first few games to see that clearly. I was watching the Croatia-Morocco game just now, and you see very even contests.

“That’s because most of the players are in the same leagues. Against Ghana, for instance, two or three of their players are adversaries of Bruno [Fernandes, who was sitting alongside Santos] in the same championship. They play for big teams and are used to the tactical issues at play. In the past you would see a difference, but nowadays you don’t, especially as all the coaches are of an extremely high level.

“We are prepared for opponents that will cause us a lot of problems. Ghana are a very well organised team. Their game against Switzerland showed that. African teams have a lot of talent, unpredictability, and are always improving tactically. Today they are much more complete teams.

“Portugal have played African teams in the last three World Cups and they have always been very tough games.” [0-0 v Ivory Coast in 2010; 2-1 win v Ghana in 2014; 1-0 win v Morocco in 2018]

Importance of winning the first game?

Fernando Santos: “Winning the first game in any competition is always important, as it brings positive energy.

“But I’ve played a tournament when we drew our first three games and won – the European Championship – and if we were given that option again we’d all take it. But we realise that’s a big risk, we know that.”



World Cup dream

Fernando Santos: “I have that ambition, the desire and the dream of winning the World Cup. I believe we have the ability to fight for this goal. We want to give the Portuguese people great joy.”


Ronaldo ‘noise’

Fernando Santos: “Will it take away our focus? No, it won’t. I haven’t even heard the players talk about it at any time here, at training, during leisure time, when they’re playing games such as table football, not even Ronaldo himself. Maybe in their rooms they turn on the TV, they talk to their families, they do what they want.

“But what’s important is the total focus I see in my players and a fantastic spirit, very in tune with what they have to do, what our goals are, while at the same time aware of the difficulties that we will face because they have a realistic outlook.”

By Tom Kundert

Related: “If I don’t score a single goal and Portugal win the World Cup, I’ll take that” - Ronaldo