The Portugal coach, Fernando Santos, has acknowledged that he personally informed Cristiano Ronaldo that he would not be a starter in the round of 16 match of the World Cup in Qatar against Switzerland and that he was “not” satisfied, but that in no way moment threatened to leave the team, and has highlighted the strength of Morocco, which they will face this Saturday for a ticket to the semifinals.
“That conversation existed, it would be bad if it hadn’t happened. Since I got here I only give the eleven an hour and a half before the game, I write it on the blackboard. It had to happen; I don’t do that with everyone, but he is the captain, of course. projection, because of what it represents for the Portuguese and for the team, naturally I had to have that conversation. It happened on the day of the game after lunch. I explained to him the reasons why I wasn’t going to play”, he declared at a press conference.
At that time, he told him that he was not going to have him as a starter. “I thought that his entry in the second half could solve the game. Was Cristiano satisfied? No. He usually plays as a starter. It’s normal that he’s not very satisfied. It was a perfectly normal and calm conversation. He didn’t accept that simple explanation. He never, at any time, told me that he wanted to leave the national team,” he said.
“It’s more: I think it’s time for us to stop some things. It’s a bit fashionable to just point to Cristiano. If there’s a better example, it’s the example he set in the game. He was the one who shouted from the bench, the one who he jumped at all the goals, I saw him on TV applauding with João Mario. In the end it was he who asked his teammates to come out to applaud and he left alone. Leave Ronaldo alone”, he added.
On the other hand, regarding the duel against Morocco, he assured that he will have “different things from Switzerland.” “Morocco is very strong, I don’t know how to say that it’s not a favourite. They have only conceded one goal, they have scored four, they scored seven points in the group stage. They have players who play for the best teams in the world, like Chelsea, PSG, Bayern… Only those who haven’t seen the games against Spain and Croatia will doubt the quality of the team. Then there’s Amrabat, who is being one of the great revelations. He has a goalkeeper who plays well with his feet, and he is very strong offensively”, he highlighted.
He also recalled the match between the two teams in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, in which the Portuguese won 1-0. “It was the toughest we had, despite the fact that we won 1-0. We suffered a lot. The players have already seen it, they know the quality of the rival and they have to go onto the field without fear and with confidence”, he indicated.
“It is a very well organized team, with talent, it has the creativity of the African player, with a stronger culture in terms of collective play due to the influence of playing in Europe. It is very consistent. Hakimi was not born there, but he plays for his grandparents and great-grandparents. We have to do the same, play for our grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-grandparents. It will be very, very difficult, but it will also be very difficult for Morocco,” he concluded.