Quotes from Fernando Santos’ interview with TVI

Portugal manager Fernando Santos gave his customary pre-tournament sit down interview with Portuguese television station TVI, where he discussed among many topics, Portugal’s chance of winning EURO 2020, their opponents, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonçalo Guedes.

Santos discussed the differences from the 2016 squad, which won the title on a memorable night in Paris, and the current one. He also talked about how other nations now view Portugal differently, having finally won a major tournament.

I don’t think you could compare the squad from 2016 to this one. Since 2014, a lot has changed. Some players come in, some go out. It’s a natural evolution. We could compare with 2019, when we won the Nations League. That’s a competition comparable to the Euro.

There is a difference from 2016. The great powers of football used to look at Portugal as dangerous but they didn’t think we could win. That’s different than with Germany, they say: In football it is 11 versus 11 and in the end Germany wins. Our opponents had respect for Portugal but they didn’t believe we could win. Since 2016, they now look at us as contenders [candidates].

Stronger conviction? I think all my colleagues knew we were close. The big difference between 2016 and 2021, is that before, we weren’t champions. That helps because winning is a habit. The Nations League victory in 2019 was the consolidation of that.

These days players don’t expect to encounter something unexpected. But, there are nuances that we can’t understand. At the last World Cup, several players had won [in 2016] and were prepared. But others, felt the weight too much. They did not always show that in training but later it was clear. For me, the only obligation is to play to win. In 2018, there were players that thought it was a failure if they didn’t win. I hope they have overcome that.

Santos also spoke about their opponents in Group F which includes Germany, France and Hungary, warning that Portugal will need to be at their very best to advance.

For me, the squads are similar [Portugal, France and Germany]. I think there are 6-7 that are very close to the same level. We can’t say we are better than France, but France can’t say they are better. Germany is the same. They are all strong squads and we will have to be at our best. But, we need to know, Hungary is very dangerous and they are playing at home.

The match with Hungary is of great importance in a short competition where one result could change everything. In this group, there are three squads that could win the title. This Euro is different. There are 11 teams that will play at home and that will matter. Hungary will play two matches at home and Germany three. That obviously has its advantages. Hungary gave us plenty of trouble in 2016. They were really good, then faltered but are strong again. Their players are very tough. It will be difficult.

If we play like we are capable, we could win. With France and Germany, we are equals. Germany renewed their squad following the Confederations Cup in 2017, but then went back and recalled some players like Hummels and Muller. There are some things we need to look at. There are some questions [with Germany] we need to answer. They have a lot of talent. But, nothing scares me. I respect what they have.

Like always, he spoke with admiration about Portugal’s biggest star.

Ambition, strength, determination, humility and hard work. I think that defines him. He shows how to make your dreams come true. He knows that being idle won’t get you anywhere. At the age of 14-15, he crossed the road with weights attached to his legs, when the light was yellow, he would run as fast as the cars. I think that says it all about Cristiano Ronaldo.

Santos also discussed how the squad has evolved over his tenure and will need to continue to do so if Portugal are to be successful this summer.

In 2014, we started playing a 4x4x2 diamond. At that time, I thought it was the best way to get the most out of the players. After we got to the final in 2016, I knew I had different players. We changed a bit to 4x2x3x1. [Ronaldo] played inside with Nani, which freed him from defensive duties. Nani did a lot of work. I don’t think people know how strong tactically Nani was. Since then, we have changed things but the foundation is the same. Under me, Cristiano has never played on the left. If I put him there, he would have to come from behind the full-back. That’s not where I want him. I need to find a solution. At the World Cup, he played with André Silva or Guedes.

Gonçalo Guedes recently tested positive for COVID-19 and remains in isolation but Santos is optimistic the Valencia winger will be on the plane to EURO 2020.

I believe he will [be at Euro 2020]. Today [1 June] is the final day to submit the 26 player squad to UEFA for the Hungary match. But, we know that we could change up to 48 hours before, under certain conditions. But, I hope I don’t have to. Under Portuguese law, Gonçalo [Guedes] could start training as soon as 4 June. I don’t know if he will join then, because we’ll be in Spain that day. If he tests negative, he could start training right away.

All quotes translated by Rui Martins. Photo is from FPF.

EURO 2016: Complete tournament player ratings for Portugal

Portugal’s uncompromising style of play did not win them much admiration among neutral fans or the media but it was undoubtedly effective. Much credit should go to manager Fernando Santos who engineered a victory by utilizing the full strength of his squad. Football Factory rated each player on their performance over the entire tournament.

Goalkeepers

Rui Patricio He was not always busy but proved to be solid when called upon. He made a crucial stop in the penalty shootout against Poland. And he made several quality stops against France in the final. Named Best Goalkeeper at the tournament. Patricio is currently enjoying the best period of his career. 9

Eduardo Did not play.

Anthony Lopes Did not play.

Defenders

Raphael Guerreiro He was probably Portugal’s most consistent outfield player. The French-born Guerreiro provided the cross for Cristiano Ronaldo’s header against Wales. He was deservedly named to the team of the tournament. 8

Eliseu He filled in for Guerreiro against Hungary and Poland. The Benfica left-back looked much improved in his defensive duties, although he did not offer much in attack. 6

Pepe The Real Madrid man began the tournament with a poor display against Iceland and Hungary in the group stage. However, he was near flawless in the knockout stages.  A thigh injury kept him out of the semi-finals. But he returned in time to face France and put in a Man-of-the-Match performance for his country. Named to the Team of the Tournament. 8

Ricardo Carvalho The 38-year-old has been a solid contributor since returning to the international scene following Fernando Santos’ appointment. He looked slightly out of step especially in the 3-3 draw against Hungary. He was dropped in favour of Jose Fonte for the knockout stages. 6

Jose Fonte One of the great stories in this squad. The former Sporting CP academy graduate only made his international debut less than two years ago at the age of 30. He replaced Ricardo Carvalho against Croatia and was solid the rest of the way. 7

Bruno Alves He filled in admirably for the injured Pepe in the semi-final against Wales. 6

Cedric Soares Took over for Vieirinha against Croatia. His crucial mistake in the early stages against Poland led to the Robert Lewandowski goal. However, the Southampton right-back did not hang his head. Instead, he would be one of Portugal’s best performers the rest of the way. 7

Vieirinha The biggest disillusionment of this tournament for Portugal. He failed to provide sufficient cover on the Iceland goal in the first match. He was ineffective in attack and at times, a liability on defense. Santos rightly dropped him in favour of Cedric. 5

Midfielders

William Carvalho The holding midfielder replaced Danilo against Austria and put in an outstanding performance helping to drive the attack while supporting the Portuguese backline. Although he made less of an impact from then on, he still provided the stability the team needed. 7

Danilo Pereira The FC Porto midfielder suffered a back injury in the match against Iceland and lost his position in the starting XI to William.  Although, he would make a valuable contribution as a substitute. He filled in for the Sporting midfielder as a starter in the semi-final against Wales and even came close to scoring on one occasion. 6

Renato Sanches Named Best Young Player in the tournament. His long run in extra time against Croatia led to Quaresma’s goal. He scored the tying goal against Poland. Although, he was less of a factor against Wales and in the final. Still, he only added to his burgeoning reputation. It will be almost impossible to top the year he has had. 7

Andre Gomes He earned a starting spot against Iceland and put in an excellent display, creating the goal scored by Nani. But, his injury against Croatia would greatly limit him. He made a positive substitute appearance against Wales but did not appear in the final. 6

Adrien Silva The Sporting captain made his debut in the tournament against Croatia. He earned Fernando Santos’ confidence with some impressive performances on the way to the final. Unselfish, hardworking and tough, he embodies Portugal’s championship-winning side more than anyone. 7

João Moutinho A starter at the beginning of the tournament, the Monaco midfielder was not at his best in the group stage. He was forced to withdraw at half-time against Hungary due to an injury. However, he came in as a late substitute against Poland and provided a dangerous through-ball to Ronaldo, who could not capitalize. He made a major impact as a substitute in the final, helping to create the winning goal. 7

João Mário Much was expected of the Sporting midfielder at the beginning of the tournament. He was noticeably quiet against Iceland and was dropped in favour of Quaresma in the second match. Back as a starter against Hungary he provided an assist on Cristiano Ronaldo’s back-heel goal. His decision-making left much to be desired at times in the knockout stages but he was much better in the final. 7

Forwards

Cristiano Ronaldo The Portuguese captain was not always at his best in this tournament. He was a frustrated figure against Iceland and Austria but silenced his critics with a brace against Hungary. He was decisive again in the semi-final against Wales. His tournament seemed destined to end once again in tears when he was forced to withdraw in the final because of a knee injury. But, his teammates rallied around his absence and handed him that elusive championship at international level.  8

Nani The 29-year-old rebuilt his damaged reputation. He finished tied with the team-lead in goals with three and added an assist on Sanches’ goal against Poland. He did all that while playing out of position. His move to Spanish club Valencia was finalized during the tournament.  8

Ricardo Quaresma At 32, the journeyman winger looks to have finally come into his own on the international scene. He was generally ineffective in his only start of the tournament against Austria. However, he proved to be a valuable option off the bench, scoring a late goal against Croatia and then putting away the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Poland. 7

Rafa Silva He was originally expected to play a more prominent role. However, the Braga winger was limited to a short cameo in the late stages of the draw against Austria. He looked dangerous but was not able to break the deadlock. He is one for the future.  Incomplete

Éder Just weeks ago at pre-tournament friendlies the striker was whistled at by Portuguese fans every time he touched the ball. He made short substitute appearances against Iceland and Austria before the final. In a tournament of ample drama and great storylines for Portugal, it seems almost fitting that ‘the ugly duckling’ would score the most famous goal in the country’s history. 7

Manager

Fernando Santos He will never earn style points from the mainstream media but the 61-year-old found a way to win. By preaching unity and sacrifice above all, Santos got the most out of his players. He seemed to know how to make changes at the right time. Bringing on Sanches early in the second-half against Croatia and Éder in the final, seemed insane at the time but paid off enormously. 10

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