Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are not a one-man team – Fernando Santos

Football


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A frustrated Fernando Santos has hit out at suggestions that Portugal rely too heavily on talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portugal head coach, after a question over the possibility for Ronaldo to beat the record of most goals scored in a World Cup, told his Tuesday evening news conference that his squad consisted than much more than just the Real Madrid star.

“Football is not an individual sport, it is a team sport. It is not just about Cristiano Ronaldo,” Santos said.

“We are a team who wants to do well, not a sum of individuals who want to beat records.”

Portugal face Morocco on Wednesday at the Luzhniki Stadium, four days after drawing 3-3 with Spain thanks to a Ronaldo hat trick.

“You know, we have 22 other players than Cristiano,” added Santos. “We are the Portuguese national team and we have to beat Morocco. I hope Ronaldo does well in this game but one player has never won a game by himself.

“[Morocco] are one of the best teams in Africa. They have a lot of experience with players who play in the best leagues in Europe. They are well organised with a lot of technical quality.

“We will respect them. Nothing is done in this group so we will have to be strong and determined.”

Santos also laughed off suggestions that Ronaldo’s goal celebration after scoring against Spain was a nod to the claim he is the greatest player of all-time.

“In Portugal, it is a common gesture to touch your chin. It means that you are satisfied,” he said.

Pepe, the Portuguese centre-half, was more open about the wonderful first game of his teammate.

“It is a privilege for us to have Ronaldo in our team. He makes us dream, he gives us confidence,” explained Pepe. “We hope that this will be Cristiano’s World Cup as it would be a good sign for us then.”

Morocco boss Herve Renard revealed that he has not prepared a special plan to stop Ronaldo.

“If I put three players on Ronaldo then how will we do to mark the other Portuguese players?” he asked. “They are the European Champions, they have so much quality. Don’t forget that they won the Euro 2016 final without him!

“However, if we only face Ronaldo once in our career and it’s tomorrow [Wednesday] then we have to be at our best.

“He is an exceptional player and we will try everything to make him less exceptional.

“Look at all the surprises: Mexico, Iceland, Senegal, Japan. You can achieve great things if you are ready mentally. You have to believe in yourself, even if the other team is better than you.”

Morocco might be without Nordin Amrabat, who suffered a concussion in Friday’s 1-0 loss to Iran.

The team doctor was criticised by FIFA for the way he handled the injury but Amrabat wants to play against Portugal.

“Like all the players at the World Cup, he wants to play every game,” Renard said. “We have to make a decision, we will do it after the training.

“The doctor, the player and myself will decide if he is able to play or if he has to rest.”

Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.



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