Portugal head coach Fernando Santos weighed in on the idea his side performed better without Cristiano Ronaldo after the captain reached 101 international goals.
A brace at Sweden secured a 2-0 Nations League win and took Ronaldo past a century of strikes for his country.
The goals came just as questions were being asked of Ronaldo’s role within the title holders’ team, having sat out last week’s dominant 4-1 win over Croatia.
Ronaldo said after the match he paid little attention to provocation and had no need to prove himself.
Coach Santos dismissed the notion entirely, meanwhile.
He told a news conference: “What more can I say? A team that has the best in the world cannot be better without the best in the world.
“[Ronaldo] goes on breaking records and records and then, when everyone thinks he is going to finish, there are even more records to beat. He feeds on it.”
“I want to send you a big hug, and give my congratulations, on reaching 100 goals on national team duty. It was a pleasure to have been your team-mate, and you’re the pride of all Portuguese.”
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) September 8, 2020
Portugal needed Ronaldo to step up, with his first – the milestone goal – a wonderful free-kick, after Sweden had given Santos’ side an early scare.
Bernardo Silva was injured midway through the opening period, but Gustav Svensson’s red card – which prompted Ronaldo’s set-piece – gave Portugal the advantage.
“In the first 20 minutes, we had a lot of difficulties,” the coach conceded. “We weren’t able to get their game right, with the long balls.
“We had a lot of difficulties, because when we had the ball, we lost it very easily.
“We started to improve, we started to have the ball and the game became easier for us, but then we had Bernardo’s issue – a forced substitution – and, from then on, I realised that we were going to have more difficulty.
“The red card was fundamental in the game, although I believed we would win anyway. The victory is just.”
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