Portugal boss Fernando Santos believes Thursday’s Euro 2016 clash with Poland is a “50/50” game and downplayed the significance of Cristiano Ronaldo by insisting the best team will emerge victorious.
Santos was asked on more than one occasion about Ronaldo’s importance to the quarter-final outcome, but preferred to focus on the collective rather than talk up the Real Madrid star’s contribution.
He said: “Everyone’s talking about him and there’s a reason for that. Why does everyone talk about Cristiano? It’s because he’s an amazing player and people talk a lot about amazing players.
“There are hundreds of players here in France and we don’t talk about them. But it is normal to talk about Cristiano, Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer etc.
“All our players know how to deal with that and Cristiano knows how to deal with that as well.
“I have 23 players in very good form, and a couple who have injury concerns.
“They are all highly motivated, they know what they want and it’s the team who will win this match. At this stage, talent is an added value but tournaments are won by a team. My team are trying to do that, they are very brave and they will try to put in to practice all their talent.”
Santos has been impressed with Poland’s progress in France.
“They are a very strong team, and in the qualifying round and the group stage here we were able to see this,” he said.
“In the group stage only two teams had seven points and Poland were one of them. In the qualifiers they beat Germany and they drew with Germany here.
“Both teams have the same goal, they want to go through and play the semi-finals. I believe we will go through, my Polish counterpart thinks his team will go through. There is not a favourite, it’s a 50/50 game.”
Portugal reached the last eight thanks to a drab extra-time victory over Croatia – Ricardo Quaresma nodding in the only goal in the 117th minute.
Santos added: “I think like the Croatia game it’s going to be very balanced. From what I’ve seen Poland don’t resemble any of the sides we’ve played so far.
“They are well organised, play a strategic game but attack very well. They go from defence to attack very quickly and you can see there’s a lot of work being done in the background. They also have very good individual players who can make a difference.
“Against Croatia, strategy was the main point. Both teams worked hard but both were strategically well set. Sometimes there is a knot you simply cannot untie.
“In some matches there are more defensive moments than offensive, not because that was the plan but it just happens. Whether that’s the case on Thursday we will see, but I’m sure it’s going to be a very balanced match.”
Renato Sanches, who signed for Bayern Munich from Benfica last month in a deal that could rise to €80million, impressed after coming on as a 50th-minute substitute against Croatia, but Santos hinted he may not yet have the experience required to start at the Stade Velodrome.
“The Portugal team is probably one of the few that have five players that were at the European Under-21 Championship last year and one who was at the Under-19 Championship – Renato Sanches,” he said. “These players are not inexperienced but they have fewer matches behind them but as time progresses they come into their own.
“Renato only started working with us in March, he’s still growing and it’s up to me to analyse and decide if and when he can be useful to the team. It’s the same for him and the other 22 players.”