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Fernando Santos and Portugal can be proud despite missing out on UEFA Nations League finals

Portugal defeated Croatia 3-2 in the UEFA Nations League
Portugal defeated Croatia 3-2 in the UEFA Nations League
ANALYST
Modified 19 Nov 2020, 01:31 IST
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Portugal are out of the UEFA Nations League, which means the Selecao will be unable to defend the trophy they won last year. This follows a narrow 1-0 home defeat to France on Tuesday, which saw Les Bleus secure top spot in League A Group 3.

Despite failing to qualify for the UEFA Nations League play-offs, Portugal ended the competition on a high by beating Croatia 3-2 in the final group game. For some fans, this was a classic performance from Portugal, as they rallied from a trailing position to snatch the win in the dying minutes of the match.

But for those who have followed this team over the last four years, it was further proof that the Selecao are now well and truly among Europe’s elite teams. Since winning Euro 2016, Portugal have gone from strength to strength.

They have also become very difficult to beat under Fernando Santos. The 66-year-old coach has led the team to its most successful era, winning two major trophies in the last four years.

A team of winners

One of his key breakthroughs with this team is ending their overdependence on talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. For the first time in many years, the Selecao boast a team that has its goals coming from all over the pitch.

Bruno Fernandes is always a goal threat, Joao Felix is as lethal as his reputation commands, while Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva are not also far off when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.

Ronaldo has failed to score in Portugal’s last three games, but the team is still very much an attacking threat. On Tuesday, Portugal scored three goals against a strong Croatia side, despite Ronaldo failing to get on the scoresheet.

Rather, it was Ruben Dias and Joao Felix who stepped up to take care of the business. The elite mentality of this Portugal side is readily exuded by their coach.

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More to come from free-scoring Portugal

With the Croatia game being a dead-rubber encounter, Santos was asked in the pre-match interview if the opportunity could be used to help Ronaldo break the international record for all-time goals.

The Juventus star is currently on 102 goals as he aims to surpass Iran’s Ali Daei, who holds the record for most goals scored for a national team (109). However, Santos' answer typified the focus of his team.

"No, certainly not, nobody will be thinking about Cristiano. They [other players] will not be thinking about not scoring in order to give the chance to someone else,” the Portugal coach is quoted as saying by ESPN.
“Even Cristiano wouldn't want that to happen. Cristiano will score when he has to score. They [other players] will not be thinking about that.”

They may have exited the UEFA Nations League but Santos and his team can hold their heads up high. They’ve come a long way and this special group is bound to dominate world football in the coming years. 

Published 19 Nov 2020, 01:31 IST
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