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Portugal ugly duckling won't get out of town, says Santos

Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - Portugal News Conference - Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis, France - 2/7/16 - Portugal's coach Fernando Santos attends the news conference. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - Portugal News Conference - Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis, France - 2/7/16 - Portugal's coach Fernando Santos attends the news conference. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

By Brian Homewood

MARCOUSSIS, France (Reuters) - Portugal coach Fernando Santos is not worried if people think his side is the "ugly duckling" among the teams left in Euro 2016.

Underdogs Iceland and Wales have captured the imagination of the public while Antonio Conte's Italy have been acclaimed for their sparkling wins over Spain and Belgium.

Portugal, on the other hand, have reached the semi-finals of the competition for the fourth time in the last five attempts without winning a game inside 90 minutes and without ever playing especially well.

Their second-round match against Croatia, which they won in the dying minutes of extra time, was criticised as one of the worst of the tournament. Santos, however, does not care what others think.

"Of course, Wales and Iceland are the teams everyone likes, because nobody expected them to get this far," Santos told reporters at the French Rugby Federation's headquarters on the outskirts of Paris where Portugal are now based.

"I'm not worried about being the ugly duckling or someone who feels sorry for himself. I'm interested about getting to the final and winning it," added Santos, whose side face Wales in Lyon on Wednesday in their semifinal.

"It doesn't bother me or the players at all. Would I like us to be pretty? Yes. But, in between being pretty and being at home, or being ugly and being here, I prefer to be ugly."

Santos has insisted throughout that he will only be returning home to Portugal on July 11, the day after the final.

"I would be unhappy if it were the other way round and I was at home and people were saying we should still be in the tournament," he said.

"We have drawn up a plan, we have a target and we are fighting for that, and maybe that's not so nice for others."

Santos lavished more praise on forward Cristiano Ronaldo who has been unable to find the same prolific scoring form he shows at Real Madrid. Ronaldo has scored two goals, both in the 3-3 draw against Hungary, and missed a penalty against Austria.

"Of course, you can't compare and you shouldn't compare the Cristiano Ronaldo who plays for Real Madrid with the Ronaldo in the national team, although we have a fantastic Ronaldo here," he said.

"He is an example, as captain, of the spirit of this team, of this team's determination. He wants to do well and he wants to win, and in this aspect he has been fantastic."

(Writing by Brian Homewood. Editing by Adrian Warner.)

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