Portugal opens against Ghana this Thursday with the recent announcement of Cristiano Ronaldo’s retirement from Manchester United in the area. Fernando Santos denies that everything that happens around his captain affects Portugal’s concentration.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo take the focus away from the national team’s debut?
“No, I don’t think I can take the focus off the debut. They are all very focused. I have not heard any comments on this subject in the common areas. Even today there were 20 people watching the game, some playing foosball and some doing other things, and I have never heard a conversation on this subject. It is not a subject or theme, not even yours. But if later in the room, in the hours alone, they call here and there. .. They have time to do what they want. There is a total concentration of my players and a fantastic spirit, convinced of what they have to do, knowing how difficult they have it, with Ghana and to win a competition like this, which is extremely difficult.
How do you watch the World Cup?
There were games with big surprises or very balanced ones, like Croatia-Morocco. We haven’t seen any favorites because nowadays more and more teams are strong, most of the players play in the big leagues, in big teams and are used to tactical issues, today there is not that much difference that has to do with culture because also the coaches are all on the same level. It is difficult, but we are convinced because we all trust each other”.
“There are a lot of teams that come here with the ambition to win. I understand the question. England and France are favorites and Argentina are no longer favorites because they lost? I do not think so. Nothing is solved in a single match”.
And how do you see your team?
“Trust is essential. The only word written in the dressing room is ‘we’. That’s the essential. We have a lot of players here who have been to the previous two World Cups and know that everything has a starting point. Without that nothing exists. In 2018, the World Cup was held after an incident. Several came on stage without a club or without knowing the future. Many spoke about it. Their lives were at stake. The atmosphere was very good, but it distracted. We had players signing contracts at that time, some had to renew, others with a new contract, others left. In 2021 there was Covid and a lot of travel. This is the mass that ‘gives us confidence for everything else. That confidence is notorious in training. There is joy, concentration, liveliness and spontaneity from the first day they arrived in Portugal. That is what I want. I’m sure they’ll put him on the field tomorrow.”
What goal is set?
“I don’t set goals. I know it’s hard. We intend to give the Portuguese a lot of fun. That’s what we’re going to try to do in every game. We have been feeling that fantastic support since 2016. When It Starts is on tomorrow, the seats are full and people are glued to the television. What moves us is to bring great joy to the Portuguese. The lower part is not worth thinking about ”.
“I have ambition, desire and dream to win the World Cups. There is no one who is in this World Cup who does not at least have the dream. And I think at least we have the ability to fight for it. We are not presumptuous, but we are convinced of the quality of this team and our work.”
They did well against Nigeria…
“We put in a very good performance, that’s true. We had joy, dynamism and unpredictability. Great ability to reorganize the game, primarily in response to loss and defensive organization. After 35 minutes at a high level, we entered a period where we disconnected and couldn’t do anything. If we fail, we will always fail, we will always make mistakes, but there are unnecessary things. They are failures that are not necessary. Go to the other half of the road. The zip code is not to make mistakes on the same level. We are closer to winning the game.”
How important is the match against Ghana for qualifying?
“The first game is always more important, because it’s the first and the next. Victory brings more positive energy. But in the European Championship I’ve already drawn and won three… I’ll sign below, but it’s a very big risk. The rival will cause us a lot of trouble. This Ghanaian team is very well organized and we saw that recently against Switzerland. They are very fast in transitions and in a fast attack. If we are not paying attention, they have high quality players, with very important moments in the game. We respect the opponent. We have to think about ourselves and improve our skills and attributes to win tomorrow.”
They have experience against African teams…
“Portugal have faced African teams and they were exciting and very difficult games. In 2014, Ghana. I know the quality that Ghana had. The African teams have a lot of talent, a lot of unpredictability and they are always growing on a technical and tactical level, today they are much more complete teams. Look at Arabia, who was sentenced to stay out three days ago and today is a candidate to get through the group stage. Ghana has an experienced coach. It will be difficult, but we are confident and I think Portugal will win.”
Which Portugal do we see against Ghana?
“Strategically, we get a Portugal similar to Nigeria. The team will be dynamic and creative. We need to improve the properties we have at the moment. There were generations with a lot of quality that didn’t win, they did [calidad] and they know it. I go to bed very quietly. Everyone is ready, today we’re going to see Nuno, who didn’t train yesterday. They all give me guarantees. Enjoy this comfort, without losing focus and concentration. We want to play a great game and win tomorrow.”