Seleção coach keeps us guessing regarding Spain line-up
Portugal manager Fernando Santos today responded to the messages of support sent to him via PortuGOAL.
O Engenheiro expressed his gratitude and promised the Seleçao would continue to do everything to repay the backing for Portugal coming from all around the world. Read his full message below.
Meanwhile, at the press conference ahead of Portugal’s final friendly match before the World Cup versus Algeria in Lisbon tomorrow Santos was giving nothing away.
The wily coach insisted “I’ve got lots of doubts,” when asked if he knows the starting XI he would be sending out in the opening match against Spain in one week’s time.
As part of our “The Thirteenth Chapter” book initiative, PortuGOAL gave Portuguese fans from around the globe the opportunity to send missives of gratitude and/or support to Fernando Santos and the Seleção. The call was heeded, and a flood of wonderful messages (some struggling to stick to the 50-word limit in typical Portuguese style!) were received from far and wide, which can be read here.
The page was printed out and presented to Fernando Santos, alongside the respective translations, and the 63-year-old made of point of giving the following response:
“Obrigado pelo vosso apoio. Tudo faremos para continuar a dar alegrias a todos os portugueses, onde quer que eles estejam no mundo.”
Translation: “Thank you for your support. We will do everything to continue to give joy to all Portuguese people, wherever they are in the world.”
Later on, Santos fielded questions in the press conference room of the Estádio da Luz ahead of the third of Portugal’s three pre-tournament friendly matches tomorrow. He dismissed the notion that Algeria had been chosen as opponents because of any similarity to neighbours Morocco (Portugal’s second opponents in Group B), saying the two nations played a completely different style.
He praised the quality of Algeria, pointing out that the African outfit have high quality players who are well-known in Portugal, such as Porto’s Brahimi and ex-Sporting striker Islam Slimani, as well as singling out Leicester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez.
Inevitably, much of the focus of the press conference was directed at Portugal’s first match in the World Cup rather than tomorrow’s game, but Santos was keeping his cards close to his chest.
When asked directly if he knew what side he would select against the Spanish he flatly denied it. “I’ve got lots of doubts about the line-up for the Spain game. It makes no sense to think about this now. We have to take conclusions from all our friendly matches and see how the players evolve in the five days of training we still have ahead of us.”
Despite Santos insisting that “you can’t infer that the starting XI against Algeria will be the XI against Spain,” it would appear logical that he picks a team that is at least very similar to the one that will kick off Portugal’s seventh World Cup campaign next Friday, if only to build chemistry and confidence ahead of the clash against one of the tournament favourites.
One thing is certain. Santos said captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined the rest of the squad on Monday, will begin the match. All doubts will be dissipated around one hour before the 8.15pm kick-off tomorrow, but for what it’s worth here is PortuGOAL’s hunch as regards the team selected against Algeria.
Predicted Portugal XI vs. Algeria:
Rui Patrício, Cedric Soares, Pepe, José Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, William, João Moutinho, Bernardo Silva, João Mário, Ronaldo, André Silva
By Tom Kundert