29 Jun 2018, 23:42 IST
Portugal are not a one-man team reliant on captain and all-time leading goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo, according to head coach Fernando Santos.
Ronaldo has led the way for Portugal at the World Cup, scoring four goals in three games to help the European champions reach the last 16 against Uruguay in Sochi on Saturday.
Santos was inevitably asked about Ronaldo on the eve of the knockout clash at Fisht Stadium and the Portugal boss revealed he had won himself a free coffee after betting that he would field questions on the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Responding to the initial question, Santos said: “I have to repeat, I always understand the question. Everybody knows, that we depend on our players.
“We have one of the best in the world but if you ask me, [Luis] Suarez, [Edinson] Cavani, you can ask the same question of Uruguay because you have great players in every team.”
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) June 29, 2018
When the attention turned to Ronaldo and whether Portugal rely on the 33-year-old superstar, Santos told reporters: “It’s the team that has to play. If Ronaldo plays alone, we will lose. We have to be strong as a team as strong as Uruguay are as a team.
“It’s very hard to rely on a single player. Even if you score three goals, you need the support of a full team. It’s going to be a confrontation between two teams of high quality. You look at the midfield, they have players in European leagues – one for Juventus, one for Inter, one for PSG and one for Barca. We’re talking about great teams and players.
“It’s true, of course, when both teams manage to cancel each other out, then individuals come to the fore. I hope my team is up to the task then Ronaldo will make the difference.”
Portugal finished as runners-up to Spain in Group B, while Uruguay kept three successive clean sheets as they topped Group A ahead of hosts Russia.
“Uruguay are Uruguay. You know they have a coach [Oscar Tabarez] who has been working for them for 12 years,” Santos added.
“Very experienced. Quality. Strong team. We know and recognise all the players. You don’t find too many weaknesses. They behave as a unit. Several phases of the game they’re very strong. Within their strength, there’s always something you can find and that’s what we did. We got to know our opponents.
“It’s a match between two teams who are very strong. You’ll see the teams doing their best to win. I think Portugal will win but I recognise Uruguay are strong.”
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