Portugal coach Fernando Santos is not surprised to see Cristiano Ronaldo dominating pre-game discussion once again ahead of his team’s crunch Euro 2016 quarter-final tie against Poland on Thursday, saying it is a mark of the Real Madrid man’s greatness.
Portugal are yet to win a game in regulation time at the tournament, drawing all three games in the group stage and only qualifying for the round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams before beating Croatia in extra-time.
Ronaldo’s performances have drawn both criticism and praise after an underwhelming start before his solo heroics in the final group game against Hungary where he scored two goals and assisted another in a crucial 3-3 draw and he is once again in the spotlight.
And Santos is happy for the rest of his squad to fly under the radar, even if performances thus far have been underwhelming.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a player that everyone talks about and there is some reason for it. And why everyone talks about him? Because he’s a great player,” Santos explained.
“You just can talk a lot of some player and ask a lot of some player when this player is a great player. If he was not a great player would not to talk about him.
“My staff know very well to live with it, good players know how to live with it and he knows very well to live with it.”
And while Ronaldo continues to dominate talk off the park, Santos was proud to see his young team make the quarter-finals.
“The Portuguese national team is one of the few in this knockout stage with five players who were at the Euro under-21 and one that was at Euro under-19,” Santos said.
“We also have six players with age to go to Rio and play on Olympics Games. So it is normal that in a first contact [with major senior international tournaments], these players do not have a great experience, despite playing in big clubs and have played big tournaments.
“There is always a burden to wear the shirt of the national team, with the weight of responsibility and this is perfectly normal and over time they will enter a normal rhythm, with the knowledge of their colleagues.”
But Santos warned the upcoming match with Poland would not be an easy one.
“What I can say is that they have a very strong team, but this happens on both teams and this is a game where the both are favourites and both will give their all to achieve your goal to advance in the tournament,” he said.