Seleção coach Roberto Martínez continues to share his thoughts on multiple media outlets as excitement builds ahead of the 2024 European Championship in Germany in the summer.
In an interview with Portuguese news agency Lusa, Martínez spoke about Portugal’s chances at the tournament and dropped further hints about his likely squad selection. PortuGOAL rounds up the main quotes.
Qualifying campaign – easy opponents?
“It’s very difficult to win 10 matches in a qualifying campaign. I did it with Belgium and I know you need a very focused team that gives it everything. In this Euro 2024 qualifying stage no other team managed 10 victories. We did not play against teams that had the same individual level of our players, but there are always difficulties and people in football know that. The fans and other people may have their own opinion, and that’s healthy.”
Bruno Fernandes a leader
“Bruno has leadership. During the game his brain is extremely active and he is constantly assessing what’s happening on the pitch. He has a very, very high ability to read the game, and he can play is several positions. He played a perfect qualifying campaign and he had a very important role. He played in four different positions at an extremely high level.
The perfect game? – Bosnia and Herzegovina
“In Bosnia, our opponents needed to win more than us. We had already qualified and we did not need to be perfect. We played the first 45 minutes showing the values that I like. Competitiveness, objectivity, quality in our fast attacking. It was the game that gave me the most satisfaction. We were perfect against Luxemburg from the first to the last minute, but we needed to win. Against Bosnia we could choose to play well or not. We played well. I like that a lot.” [Bosnia-Herzegovina 0-5 Portugal]
João Félix – best in Europe early in the season
“I was honestly surprised with the criticism I received for selecting João Félix and João Cancelo at the start of the campaign [neither player had played any club football at the time]. I have a lot of experience monitoring players, preparing training camps and the coaching team has a lot of information that is not available outside the federation. We had a lot of information at a very tricky time when most players are in pre-season and their future is unstable.
“What the players did in the previous training camps is much more important than their current situation. Both of them gave an excellent response on the pitch. Cancelo, for example, showed us that he was at an extremely high level, and there is no other player that brings the abilities he does.
“João Félix was probably the best player in Europe in September and October. But the expectations surrounding our Seleção and the various options we have led to comments and criticism and I have to accept that.
“Félix’s spell at Chelsea helped him a lot, but he needs a stable situation. He’s on loan again and this isn’t a stable situation. He’s been crucial at Barcelona and whenever he comes on he scores goals or provides assists. He needs stability.”
Euro 2024 squad decided?
“The Seleção is an extremely competitive space, but the door is open for when a player deserves to be called up. It was the case of João Neves. He’s an example for all young players and he shows that the door is always open.”
“He’s an example of how a player can give everything to the Seleção. We had a perfect qualification and Cristiano was a very important captain to start this new period. When I first talked to him about the Seleção it was like talking to an 18-year-old youngster. And then I saw a rapid and fast Cristiano Ronaldo on the training pitch, so I wasn’t surprised when he scored 54 goals in 2023 for club and country.”
“Pepe is a very important player for the Seleção. He had bad luck having to miss out on call-ups because of injuries. He’s a player who positively influences others, who has enormous experience and who’s really good for the changing room. There’s a long way to go before the Euro 2024 squad announcement (20 May), and Pepe is on the list of players who can be called up. His experience, attitude, commitment and the the whole package he has at his age is admirable. He has an incredible influence.”
Euro 2024 chances
“To be successful at the Euro we need to grow over the first three matches. In the past, historical teams like Spain, England, France, Belgium, Italy and Germany have got closer to winning trophies by growing throughout the tournament. We now belong to this group and we have everything to fight to win it.”
March friendlies against Sweden and Slovenia
“We will give priority to players who have had a good season and shown 12 months of good football and who deserve to be in the Seleção. It’s an opportunity to obtain even more information about the players. It will be time to focus on the players. Later, in May, it will be time to make decisions. Injuries, form, attitude, how the players have performed… There are lots of factors the go into the final squad selection.”
By Tom Kundert