Nani believes Portugal’s Euro 2016 quarter-final against Poland will be one to enjoy for the fans, rejecting suggestions that Fernando Santos’ tactics have turned the team turgid.
Portugal qualified from Group F at Euro 2016 without winning a match and required extra time to see off Croatia 1-0 in Lyon in the last 16.
Three of their four goals during the round robin stage came during a helter-skelter 3-3 draw against group winners Hungary but Fenerbahce forward Nani does not believe Santos is shackling Portugal’s creative talents with tactics akin to his 2010-14 spell in charge of Greece
“I do not see it like this,” he said. “We have already played four games and Portugal’s football cannot be compared to that of Greece.
“I think we have played good games, putting on a spectacle and against Hungary we scored a lot of goals – but, of course, it will not be possible to do this in all games.
“For me, it is one of the best moments of the national team. The group is excellent, young, all demonstrating team spirit, all pulling in the same direction and this has been one of the factors that shows we are stronger. We have all the conditions to go as far as possible.”
Nani, who has two goals to his name in the tournament so far, expects a stern examination from Adam Nawalka’s well-drilled Poland in Marseille on Thursday.
“The game does not have a favourite. We know that Poland is a very strong team, with experienced players,” he explained.
“We have to be at our best, to go in with the confidence to try and win the game.”
Nani’s form, the sight of Ricardo Quaresma netting decisively against Croatia and the presence of teen sensation Renato Sanches in the Portugal squad is enough to convince Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny that all eyes should not be trained upon a familiar star at the Stade Velodrome.
“I would like to have Cristiano Ronaldo in the Poland team, even if not in his best form, but Portugal is not just Ronaldo. They are a strong team,” Szczesny said.
“If I were to draw attention to one name, it would be Renato Sanches – [he has played] mainly from the bench, but he caused a lot of problems and has high quality.”
One man not in the Poland team at present is Szczesny himself, having suffered a thigh injury during the opening 1-0 win over Northern Ireland before watching former Arsenal team-mate Lukasz Fabianski step impressively into the breach.
“It is difficult to say if I can go out and help the team with little more than one full training session completed,” he added. “I am able to deal with the pain, but the injured muscle is not perfect yet. I just want to help the team in whatever way I can.”
Poland welcome midfielder Bartosz Kapustka back from suspension, while Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski – still without a goal in the tournament – is expected to shake off a minor thigh complaint.
The sides last met competitively in qualification for Euro 2008, with a 2-2 draw following a 2-1 home win for Poland in Chorzow. Ronaldo and Lewandowski were both on target during the latter fixture.
Key Opta stats
– This will be Poland and Portugal’s third encounter at a major tournament and their first in the European Championship. They have one win apiece so far: 1-0 to Poland at the 1986 World Cup and 4-0 to Portugal at the 2002 World Cup.
– Portugal are unbeaten in their 11 competitive fixtures under Fernando Santos (W8, D3), all eight of their wins in that run being decided by a single goal, including the extra-time win over Croatia.
– Portugal have picked up three yellow cards at Euro 2016, the fewest among the teams to have made it to the quarter-finals.
– Robert Lewandowski scored in the 17th minute of his first game at Euro 2012 against Greece. Since then, he has failed to find the net or deliver an assist in the competition in 643 minutes.
– Jakub Blaszczykowski has been directly involved in all five of Poland’s goals in the last two Euro tournaments (three goals, two assists).
– Cristiano Ronaldo has played in more games than any other player in the European Championship finals (18). He’s now only one goal short of Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in the competition.
– Ricardo Quaresma is the most prolific substitute so far at Euro 2016, with one assist (v Hungary) and one goal (v Croatia) after coming off the bench.
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