FEATURE: Fernando Santos believes Euro 2016 win will forge ‘new path’

Posted: July 12, 2017 in Cristiano Ronaldo, Features, Portugal
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Santos Euro 2016

A day after Portugal marked the one-year anniversary of its Euro 2016 victory, the man who led them to that feat spoke to a group of journalists at the Cidade do Futebol facility in Oeiras. Fernando Santos says the country’s first title at senior level could set the stage for more success in the future.

The standard has been raised. Portugal should expect to be a contender in every competition. We have that obligation now. We have found a new path. We now know what it takes to win. The best teams know this. If we know what we have to do to win, than the road to get there is a little easier. Still, we can’t expect to win every tournament we enter.

Santos also credited the team’s work ethic and spirit of togetherness for the victory.

The players deserved it because of all the work they put in and for always believing in themselves. I can’t say it all went the way we would have liked but we always believed we could do better.

We created a family there [at the training camp in Marcoussis]. It is always important for a squad to be united. I was the mentor in a way. I can’t say I did not have something to do with it (laughs). We cultivated a strong spirit. When we got to Marcoussis, I told the players that they would have free time for their families and for themselves, regardless of the results. We were together for 50 days and I think that was very fundamental. It made a difference.

The final group stage match against Hungary (a 3-3 draw in which they fell behind on three occasions) showed the team’s character, according to Santos.

The match against Hungary was an important moment. At several times in that match, many players would have experienced doubt, but my players always believed they could win.

Portugal received criticism for its style of play, which was characterized as more pragmatic than many Portuguese teams from the past but Santos was making no apologies on Tuesday.

Controversies won’t obscure the fact that Portugal are champions of Europe. It wasn’t luck, it was merit. It wasn’t spectacular but even Germany have won few things in that way. We need to continue to improve our recruitment so that it is up to par with other countries.

He also found time to praise Portugal’s captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Often portrayed as single-minded and arrogant by the media, O Engenheiro offered a very different take on the four-time World Footballer of the Year.

Cristiano, our captain, has been a point of reference on this squad. He demonstrates leadership in his demeanor, attitude and dedication to the Seleção Nacional. Many of the young players today were 7 or 8 when he started playing in 2003 and became used to seeing him as an idol. But, they soon realize that he is just another teammate. He sacrifices everything, gives everything. And not just at Euro 2016 but in every match he plays.

Santos spoke about the moment in the final when the players realized that they would have to win without their captain.

It really struck us. We had a strategy and it was working very well. [Ronaldo] was very involved until that point. But, I continued to believe my players could win. Everyone was impacted [by Ronaldo’s injury]. We were all anxious at halftime.

Finally, he took time to update the fans on Éder who scored the most meaningful goal in Portugal’s history but finds himself on the outside looking in as far as the national team is concerned.

I care a lot about my players. When we have a situation like the one Éder is in now [at Lille] where he is out of the squad, it makes me sad. I hope that this situation changes and I told him that.

Santos and the players, fresh off a third-place finish at the Confederations Cup in Russia, will take time to recharge before the club season begins in a matter of weeks.

And Portugal still have plenty of work to do to qualify for next year’s World Cup. They currently sit in second in Group B, three points behind Switzerland. They will face Faroe Islands at the Estádio do Bessa in Porto on 31 August, followed by Hungary in Budapest three days later.

All quotes were translated from Portuguese by Rui Miguel Martins.

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