Sunday, October 22, 2017

Portugal not below expectations, says Joao Mario

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 Jun 2016

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Portugal have not underachieved at Euro 2016 despite only advancing from the group stage as one of the best third-placed teams, according to Joao Mario.

Fernando Santos’ team were expected to qualify comfortably from Group F, but draws against Iceland and Austria left them on the brink of an exit heading into their final match against Hungary.

In a sensational game in Lyon, Portugal had to come from behind three times in order to salvage a point against the section winners.

Iceland’s last-gasp 2-1 win over Austria saw the Nordic nation overhaul Portugal for second place, but Joao Mario insists they have not failed to live up to expectations.

“We achieved the first objective – the most important thing was to progress beyond this stage and we did,”  said the midfielder in a post-match television interview.

“I don’t think it’s below expectations, we had the objective to progress and we have.

“The group stage has proved there are no weak teams. Croatia showed they are a strong team against Spain [a 2-1 win on Tuesday], but let’s face the game with optimism and eagerness to keep going.”

After criticism of his performances in the first two matches, Cristiano Ronaldo played a starring role in earning Portugal the point with a pair of second-half strikes.

The captain became the first player to score in four separate European Championships in a record 17th appearance in the competition.

Joao Mario, who set Ronaldo up for his sensational first – an improvised flick with his trailing leg – praised the 31-year-old’s contribution.

“He is our captain, our reference. He contributes a lot to the team and now has two goals, which is always important,” he added.

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