France 2-1 Portugal - Friendly, 11 October 2014 - Match Report
Fernando Santos’ first game in charge of the Seleção after replacing Paulo Bento could not have got off to a worse start. After three minutes, with the Portuguese defence flailing like a fish out of water, France’s best player Griezmann did what he wanted with debutant Cédric on the left and crossed low. The centre of Portugal’s defence watched the ball find its way to the back post where Sagna, with acres of room, drove a shot at goal. Rui Patrício got down well but parried it into the danger area in front of his goal where Benzema was lurking and had time to hook the ball back past the luckless ‘keeper.
The first half was marked with countless similar examples of collective absence in the Portugal defence. Especially vulnerable were the full-backs Cédric and Eliseu, but neither did they have cover - in one move, Eliseu was faced with three attackers and not a single team-mate to help him out. It came to nothing, but it was a frightening demonstration of how exposed the Portuguese flanks were.
After 15 minutes or so of being under the cosh, Portugal steadily began to get their game together. The ball was reaching the front three of Danny, Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, the best chances falling to Danny (over), Nani (wide of the right-hand post) and André Gomes (over). But in midfield they were always second, despite Tiago’s best efforts – he made two or three excellent tackles to win the ball, but he was virtually fighting a solo battle.
At the break, Fernando Santos brought on the returning Ricardo Carvalho and William Carvalho. The latter gave the midfield a touch of solidity and calm, and the whole team seemed more dynamic and cohesive. On 52 minutes, Portugal constructed their best move, with a cross from Nani finding Cristiano Ronaldo’s head, but his well-aimed effort was touched away superbly by Mandanda. On 69 minutes Fernando Santos brought on Ricardo Quaresma and Éder for Nani and Tiago, respectively. The change seemed to disrupt Portugal’s concentration because France immediately went 2-0 up. Evra skipped round the hapless Cédric on the left, made the line and cut the ball back for Benzema. He had time to calmly lay the ball off to Pogba, who had time to calmly direct the ball past Rui Patrício’s left hand. All too calmly allowed.
It seemed all over, but Fernando Santos replaced Cristiano Ronaldo with young Sporting midfielder João Mário, who has been having a great start to the season, and his entrance shook the game up. Two minutes after coming on, he was fouled by Pogba in the area and Ricardo Quaresma stroked the spot-kick right down the middle to reduce the difference. There were 15 minutes left to find an equaliser, but Portugal had done as much as they were able, and anything less than a defeat would have been a misrepresentation of what went on on the pitch, especially in view of that worrying first half.
Portugal’s record against France now reads won six, drawn one, lost 16, but that won’t be what worries Fernando Santos. He has to put some kind of discipline into a really wobbly rearguard before Tuesday’s vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Denmark in Copenhagen. Denmark drew at home to Albania on Saturday, which is the only bit of good news the new coach had on the day after his 60th birthday.
Stade de France, Paris
France: Mandanda, Sagna, Varane, Mangala, Evra, Pogba, Cabaye (Moussa Sissoko 70), Matuidi, Valbuena (Payet 57), Benzema (Gignac 90), Griezmann (Schneiderlin 85)
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cédric, Pepe, Bruno Alves (Ricardo Carvalho HT), Eliseu, Tiago (Éder 78), André Gomes (William Carvalho HT), Moutinho, Danny (Vieirinha 84), Nani (Quaresma 78), Cristiano Ronaldo (João Mário 75)
- Portugal lost again to France. This can’t have been the debut you wanted but it was a game that taught some lessons. Were there any positive aspects?
- Yes, the players’ attitude was excellent and strong, especially after the first 15 minutes because we started badly. It wasn’t a debut I wanted, of course not. We have to be sad because winners are sad when they don’t win. But the team had character, desire and dedication. If we play like this against Denmark, we’re convinced that we’re going to win.
- Is there a lot to correct?
- We were a little surprised by the opponents, who also played 4-4-2 with a midfield lozenge. We gave France a lot of space, we were passive and penalised with the first goal. They pressurised us with ease. Afterwards we found the right positioning, we reacted well and were more aggressive without the ball. We started to exploit our breaks better, we broke into attack better and balanced the game. In the second half, we rectified a lot, we started very well, we were more compact, recovered more balls, although we were penalised again for the second goal – we can’t concede that kind of goal in top competition. A team like Portugal, with players of the quality of the Portuguese, can’t make mistakes and conceded that type of childish goal. But in football, the only ones who don’t make mistakes are those that don’t play. We’re all guilty. The draw would have been a fairer result. We also lacked a little depth in attack.
- Does the Seleção have a new system? What comment can you make about the debuts of Cédric and João Mário?
- Of course, or idea of how to play is the one we saw in the second half, with three players up front who can cross but who also show up in the area. Today we were missing the appearance of at least two of those players in and around the area. I wasn’t expecting everything to go well, but obviously, I wasn’t so disappointed to the point that I don’t believe what this team can do. As for the debuts and Quaresma, I don’t like to talk of individuals but I was satisfied with all the players. They’re all to be congratulated for their attitude.
- Denmark drew with Albania. They’re not opponents you should underestimate.
I’ve always said that. This qualification isn’t easy. Armenia and Albania also believe in what they’re capable of doing – they believe they can get there too. But we can’t worry too much about the opponents. We have to do our own work and win our games.
- Did we lack tuning? We always have, the Seleção has never been perfect. Is the new system an alternative? What we did on the field of play was very positive. I’d say it was the right system for the type of players we have. I liked the game, things went well. I saw the players at a good level, confident … the future is sure to be sunny. Losing is never good, but I liked it, we fought well. I feel that the atmosphere inside the Seleção is one of confidence and solidarity. We’re going to do our best and I’m convinced that we’re going to qualify [for Euro 2016] and play good football.
- Were the flanks unprotected? It’s impossible for the team to be perfect in one week. There will always be situations that are not so good in the team. I like it – it wasn’t perfect, it didn’t go 100% right, as some of my teammates have also said. We started a little apathetically but then we got it right, the team was compact and I like it. There are one or two things we have to improve. There’s a new system and new players, but the final result is positive. It’s an alternative system that will bring us benefits in the future.
- I look upon the returns [of Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago and Danny] positively. They’re assets to the team, just like the others who were called up and played. The Seleção has a fantastic present and a sunny future – from what we’ve seen, the players that are here and the U-21s. I saw the Holland game [2-0] and I like some players. I see the Seleção with a rosy future and that’s good for all of us.
- It’s been an easy integration [of the younger players]. The more experienced players know how difficult it is to represent the Seleção for the first time. But the integration has been fantastic. We have youngsters with great potential and the Seleção is going to be proud of them. They’re good payers and good people. They like to learn and that’s important at their age. When I started I also learned from the older players
- It was only a precaution [the bag of ice on his knee after being substituted]. It’s a completely normal situation.
- The first minutes weren’t easy because we weren’t able to get to grips with the opponents, but after France’s goal, and after those minutes of suffocation, the team was able to find itself and begin to put into action the game plan we trained. We showed that we can play excellent games and I want to congratulate everyone because we gave our all. I only regret the lack of efficacy, especially since we had more chances than our opponents. Our spirit and mentality is to go into each game to win and the next one we sure to win.
- It was a blessed debut. I came on for Cristiano Ronaldo and I’ll remember it forever as a very special moment. I’m living a dream. The most important thing now is to win on Tuesday [against Denmark]. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we’re on the right track.
- No one likes to lose but it was a friendly which served to assimilate new system. We can draw some positives from the game so that on Tuesday we’re better. We were better in the second half – not because I was there but because we pushed up and were more aggressive. We’re going to go into Tuesday’s match to win. We have to win. The draws in the other games were good for us. It’s all open.
- It’s good to be back. It was beautiful to see so many Portuguese in the stands and to hear the anthem again. My return didn’t go so well because we lost. But it’s the beginning of a job – to form a group with a new coach and new ideas. It was a good test. I felt good playing at no. 6. But we were surprised by France at the start of the game and they scored with their first attempt. We were a bit shaken. We weren’t expecting France’s system – they played a bit like us. We were better in the second half. William Carvalho was very good. He’s a very good passer of the ball and he’s fantastic as a no. 6. The team improved, we were close to the French lines. Despite the 0-2, we continued to believe and we brought it back to 1-2. On Tuesday, we can’t concede early on. Away from home it’s more complicated. We need to win. This is a tough and dangerous group. We have to give everything – it’s clear that no game is going to be easy. We have to guarantee three points on Tuesday. It’s going to be difficult.
- It’s always good to come back to the Seleção. I feel very proud. I’m here body and soul. We have to correct the mistakes in Denmark. Next question! [… when asked if his performance was an answer to former coach Paulo Bento].
- When we lose, we all lose, and the same goes for when we win. The truth is that we weren’t so good in the opening minutes, but as the game went on we got better and that was obvious in the second half. Although there was a lack of concentration for the second goal, I think that our attitude was good. For me it was a symbolic game because it was always my dream to represent my country and fortunately I’m back here.
- I feel proud and very happy that they’ve given me this opportunity and the confidence to wear this shirt again. Now I just want to continue to help our country and our team. There’s a lot to correct. Now we have some time to recover and hear what the coach has to transmit. But we have a team with a lot of quality, with experience and with a lot of young players – but with value and used to games like these. We have to lift our heads up and think about the game with Denmark. That one’s for real. Internal problems in the squad? You journalists arrange those problems. In the Seleção, no one has any problems. Everyone gets on well with each other and we’re all ready to help each other.
- In defensive terms, we have some things to improve. We have time for that. We’re going to improve and play a great game on Tuesday. We’re going to fight for the win, which is the most important thing. We conceded goals from the flanks? When a team concedes goals, the fault is the whole team’s, not just the full-backs or the goalkeeper. We have to work to improve what’s wrong. We’re a team: when we lose, we all lose, and the same goes for when we win. The goal was always well protected, whether with Bruno Alves, Pepe or Ricardo Carvalho. The most important thing is the team. It’s up to the coach who plays. Whoever’s chosen in any position, the important thing is to do your best. As for the exit of Paulo Bento … It’s up to the players to work and be focused. Each coach calls up the players he wants and the players come to help and do their best for the Seleção. It’s been a good week. Each coach has his own methods and we’re getting used to Fernando Santos. Yesterday we played our first game, now we have to prepare ourselves well for Tuesday and get a win. We adapted well to the new system. We weren’t good in the first part of the game, but then we improved and were good. We have to be prepared for everything against Denmark. We haven’t had many wins in recent games, but we have to know how to respond in the best way. We’re focused on winning on Tuesday. Each of us needs to think, and this is important: give our all and win.
fernando santos (I)
fernando santos (II)
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Sevilla), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders: Antunes (Málaga), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Cédric (Sporting), Eliseu (Benfica), Fábio Coentrão [withdrawn through injury] and Pepe (Real Madrid), Ivo Pinto (Dynamo Zagreb), José Fonte (Southampton), Ricardo Carvalho (Mónaco)
Midfielder: Adrien, João Mário and William Carvalho (Sporting), André Gomes (Valência), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Tiago (Atlético Madrid)
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Danny (Zenit), Éder (Sporting Braga), Nani (Sporting), Ricardo Quaresma (FC Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg)
Fernando Santos (coach, 10/10/14)
- There are enormous expectations about the starting 11. Will Ricardo, Danny and Tiago be wearing the red shirt again?
- I called up 23 players and they’re all fit to play. The returns of Danny, Tiago, Ricardo Carvalho, the inclusion of Ricardo Quaresma, that by itself doesn’t mean anything. It means the same as the inclusion of Bruno Alves, João Moutinho, of all those that are here. It doesn’t change anything. They’ve all worked really well, but then their attitude during this training camp doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It’s almost a crime for us to say that these players don’t have this or that – it seems that they’ve suddenly lost all their capacity and competence. They haven’t surprised me at all, they’ve worked really well. To tell you the truth, given the work they’ve done, I have some doubts about what I’m going to do – not in terms of strategy, I’ve got that more or less sorted out in my head, but in terms of players; I’ve still got one or two doubts.
- You’re probably not going to be sitting on the bench against Denmark. Are you going to be on the bench today or will it be [assistant] Ilídio Vale?
- Probably not means it’s not completely improbable. I’ll be on the bench. It makes sense that in this game I should be closer to the players. My relationship with Ilídio will be the same today, on the bench, as it will be on Tuesday if I’m not there. There’s a sharing of ideas that we work on and it’s more important to be on the bench than in the stands. Today I can be on the bench, so let’s take advantage of it.
- The Seleção has been playing 4-3-3. Are we going to see a 4-4-2 with a midfield lozenge, or something like that?
- The basic structure will be what I feel to be the best to exploit the qualities and characteristics of the players. The message that I gave was this: get the victory and, to get that, we have to be a dynamic team that creates space and frees players to enable creativity, both collective and individual, with moves that create conditions to score goals. And, whenever we lose the ball, we have to have the capacity to defend well to avoid conceding. That’s what the great teams do. We have to free ourselves up for the game based on creativity and at the same time responsibility.
- Is it more important for the team to create routines, to field the best team and the best tactical system, or to hide the game a little?
- We all have different conceptions. And if I have different conceptions, I have to put them into practice, otherwise when we get to the next game we might not know if things are going well or not. I hope that in this game the team give me all the answers I’m looking for. It wouldn’t make any sense to hide our game.
- Will you bet all on this game, or are you going to think of the physical aspect because of the game against Denmark?
- If you asked me whether I had any wish in life then maybe it would be this, to be here on my birthday [60th, 10/10] in charge of the Seleção. You can’t ask for more. Now all I have to do is ask for a present, and the present is to be able to win both games. When the Portuguese team enter the field of play, it’s a symbol of the country, a flag and a hymn. The game will be a great responsibility for all of us, starting with me as coach, and then the players and everyone involved in the Seleção. Against France, it won’t be any less of a responsibility because we’re in a country that has a lot of Portuguese emigrants, there’s a great desire to see the Seleção, but if you ask me if I’m going to rest players for the game against Denmark, then the answer’s ‘no’. If you ask me whether during the game I might think about this or that player and refresh them, then that could happen, but without taking any importance away from this game. We’re going to play two very strong teams, both with top quality players. It’s going to be a ferocious confrontation, in the best sense of the word, with two teams wanting to win. It’s going to be a great spectacle – we can’t let people down.
- The past?
- What I care about is what’s going to happen today. What’s gone is history. I don’t take nay notice of history. That’s not part of the teams’ preparation, at least it’s not with me.
- First place in the group?
- For what they did in their first games, a lot of teams are paying the price for thinking it was going to be easy. We have to fight to be first and guarantee our place. Let the others resolve their own problems.
Bruno Alves (defender, Fenerbahçe)
- On the exit of Paulo Bento
- I’ve been in this game for many years and so nothing surprises me. It’s never good for a team when a coach leaves. In fact, I have to second the recent words of João Moutinho when he said that the players have to assume some measure of guilt in relation to recent setbacks. We weren’t so competent in our work. The players always do their best for the Seleção, but things don’t always go right. We want to represent the Seleção in the best way possible. It won’t be any different from now on, but we want to achieve our objectives, which are to play better and win.
- On the game against France
- The objective is the same as ever, i.e. to win. I don’t think France are better than Portugal. It’s good to come to Paris, to a great stadium in a great city, with a lot of Portuguese and against a great team. But it’s still an away game.
- On the return of Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago, Danny and Ricardo Quaresma
- It’s as if they’ve always been here. They were welcomed in the same way as I was.
- On Fernando Santos’ methods
- I’ve already been coached by him [for AEK Athens] and I know the quality he has and that he can bring to the Seleção. During these few training sessions, he’s helped the players to improve in all aspects. And his and the players’ desire is the same: to win, to prepare the team well and to get the best possible results for the Seleção.
Danny (forward, Zenit)
- On his absence from the Seleção
- I have nothing to clarify. I’ve always been available. I never gave up on the Seleção. I’m here with a lot willingness to help Portugal achieve its objectives.
- On whether he feigned an injury to avoid playing for the Seleção
- The truth is that sometimes in football we can be physically off, with the Seleção or with our clubs. But today, as in the past, I work a lot for my club in order to be called up for the Seleção.
- On whether Paulo Bento gave him a reason for not calling him up
- No one has to give anyone any explanations. The coach has to choose and doesn’t have to explain his choices. He chose 23 [for Brazil] and I just had to accept it.
- Still on Paulo Bento
- That’s all in the past – let’s think about the present and the future. They’re things that happen and we have to accept them. I repeat: in football we have injuries, in the Seleção or in our clubs. For example, two weeks ago I didn’t play for my club and now here I am ready to help Portugal.
- On what has changed with Fernando Santos
Not much. We’re all working to take Portugal as far as possible. Any coach or player that’s here will always have to have that motivation. There’s only on possible thought: win, win, win!
- On his position
- I won’t be making any sacrifice if I play in the position that isn’t the one I most like, in the centre. Everyone of us here is prepared to play in any of the positions up front. I don’t even know if I’ll be paying - it’s the coach that will make that decision.
- On Fernando Santos selecting veterans (e.g. Ricardo Carvalho and Tiago) when renewal is called for
- I don’t know if it’s correct or not. All I know is that some players have returned that are established in European football and have quality that is above suspicion. It’s always good for a team to have this type of player and some younger ones to give the team irreverence.
André Gomes (midfielder, Valência)
- Tiago has returned to the Seleção. Aren’t you afraid that means you’ll be second choice, despite having had a great start to the season?
- That’s a question that doesn’t worry me. Tiago is a great player and the important thing is that whoever plays can give their all to help Portugal win. Competition makes us grow, makes us stronger.
- Fernando Santos has said that your ID card doesn’t play [meaning ‘age doesn’t matter’]. Is that a motivating factor for you younger players?
- For us it’s important to have our little space and fight for it. It helps us to have more experienced players here, but we want a place for us. And it’s not just the players that are here now – there are some great players in the U-21s that could be called up for the coming games.
- Has it been possible yet to see whether Fernando Santos is a very different coach from Paulo Bento?
- They’re different but they’re both top quality coaches. There may be some alteration to the teams’ tactical system, but all of us here have to be prepared to adapt to the ideas that the coach transmits
Eliseu (full back, Benfica)
- On being called up
- I was really proud when I got the news. I wasn’t expecting it, it’s true, but the fact that I’ve been doing things right for my club helped this call-up. Moving to Lisbon [from Málaga] and the fact that Benfica are top of the league and in form also helped.
- On his last game (1-2 in Denmark, October 2011) and whether this caused his subsequent absence from the team
- I wasn’t the only one who was bad in that game, it was the team, and I don’t think it’s because of that game that I wasn’t called up again. The game didn’t go well for anyone – we lost.
- On contacts with Paulo Bento during his absence from the Seleção
- Three years went by and in fact I didn’t have any conversations with mister Paulo Bento. He didn’t explain why I wasn’t being called up, and I don’t ask coaches why I’m not picked. I just need to work on the pitch and show that I’m prepared to be called up. I respected Paulo Bento’s decision and I just needed to wok to be prepared for when I would be called up. It didn’t happen and I spent that period as a fan, supporting the Seleção.
- On the advice he got from Benfica coach Jorge Jesus
- I didn’t speak much with mister Jorge Jesus but he congratulated me that I had to believe and trust myself more to get called up more often.
- On keeping the trust of the third Seleção coach he’s worked under
- I always work to keep their confidence in me. I try to give my best in each game to deserve the opportunities and their confidence. It’s up to me to work, wait and respect their choices.
João Moutinho (midfielder, AS Mónaco)
- Is this revolution in Fernando Santos’ first call-up and advantage or a disadvantage?
- I hope it’s an advantage. There are new players in every call-up, ready to help in any situation, who come with the aim of helping, supporting and giving their best for us to achieve our objectives, which are to win both games.
- Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe) and Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev) are out. Do you feel that your place is in danger?
- I don’t think that anyone’s place is safe. We all have to work at our clubs to gain the mister’s confidence. That’s what we do, and then the mister has the difficult task of deciding who he thinks are the best players at a given moment to help the Seleção. I’m here and I want to contribute in any way I can to achieving the objectives, just like my team-mates.
- What do you think of the return of Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago and Danny?
- They’ve come to contribute to the Seleção and that’s good. They’re top quality players, as everyone knows, and I hope that they can help us in the games and in training with their experience.
- With so many new players, is a week enough for Portugal to be in conditions to go to-to-toe with Denmark?
- It’s a week that we’ve got, we can’t have more. Of course it would be better to have more days together, but it has to be enough. We have to concentrate and listen to what the mister wants. It’s a new philosophy and we have to grasp everything as quickly as possible to go to the games at full strength. We have a game that we know I a friendly, against France, which could serve to test other things that the mister wants to try out, but what really matters is the game against Denmark, a very difficult opponent that has caused us a lot of problems in the past.
- How did you view Paulo Bento’s exit? Were the players responsible, too?
- Those are questions that the Federation and the mister have to answer. We’re here to give our all and achieve the objectives. When you lose, it’s normally the coach that gets the blame and who ends up being fired, but we the players also share the blame, and we actually admitted as much after the games [in Brazil and against Albania]. We have to look ahead – it’s a new phase, new methods, a new coach, and that’s what we’re focused on and we can’t look back to what happened because there’s nothing we can do about the past.
- Do you consider that this call-up belies the question of renewal, with the return of several veterans?
- I think it’s important to have experienced players because of the way they take the younger players under their wings, who also have some experience at their clubs. It’s a good mixture – the irreverence of youth and the more experienced players. It’s good and I hope that it can bear fruit. The call-up was done by the mister, who thought that these players were the best for these two games.
- After the World Cup, we had to ‘look ahead’, and then came the defeat to Albania and we had to ‘look ahead’ again. Why is it going to be different this time around?
- We always have to look ahead because looking back, we can’t change anything. We can’t forget the mistakes we made in the past so that we can evolve and progress, but we always have to look ahead because that’s the path to take. We have to look at what we want, which is qualification for Euro 2016. If we can’t look towards the coming games and we’re always just thinking about past games, that’s not going to do us any good and things aren’t going to go like we want.
- The coach has changed, the squad has changed. Shouldn’t the attitude of the players also change after such a bad game against Albania?
- I think that all players go into games wanting to do their best, but we know that those types of result often happen in football, with games that seem easy but that turn out to be very complicated. We know that game didn’t go well, that it was bad, but I repeat, we have to look ahead. We have to go into games in the same way, to do our best, to help each other, to be humble enough to defend if we have to, and the most important thing is to win. Because in the end, if we play badly and win, it won’t be as bad as all that.
- On compliments paid to him by Paulo Bento
- I try to be a good professional with all coaches, and I appreciate those words. It’s always good to hear that form any coach.
- On the captaincy and who is best suited to it
That question is not appropriate here. The captain is Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s our captain, leader, the best in the world. He’s shown in Real Madrid and in the Seleção that we have an excellent captain and he has to continue to be so for all that he is on and off the pitch: an example.
Ricardo Carvalho (central defender, AS Mónaco)
- Do you regret your attitude of three years ago [leaving the training camp in a huff without permission]? Is that what made you return to the Seleção?
- Yes. Everyone knows that I regret my act. I paid for it, I accepted the punishment and the truth is that as long as I play football I’ll always be available to represent my country. I’ve always said that publicly.
- Is returning at 36 like as if it were the first time?
- Yes, because after being called up for the first time my aim was to play football for my club and always play for the Seleção. That’s why I’ve always made myself available to be here, always.
- How were you received by your team-mates? Did they speak about the 2011 incident?
- I’m grateful to everyone for receiving me well. I thank the Federation, all the Portuguese and also my team-mates. The Portuguese know me well, of course I made a mistake, but fortunately my past speaks for me, too, and everything’s fine here.
- Do you believe that with Paulo Bento, you would ever have returned?
- I believe so, because of the mistakes I made. And I accept that. Maybe I would have done the same in his place. I received his punishment but the truth is that I always dreamed of being here and after I realised I regretted that incident, I always said that I’d like to come back and that I wouldn’t have any problems speaking to Paulo Bento. But that didn’t happen. And in fact, when I left, I didn’t want trouble with anyone, I didn’t want to mistreat anyone. I didn’t do things right because I’d lost my head.
- What was it like to follow the Seleção from afar during these three years?
- It was hard because I’ve always wanted to represent my country while I worked at my clubs, and I couldn’t do it, and above all, I thought that I could help like I still can today. It was hard.
- Was there an apology on your part?
- Formally, maybe not. But I can do it now. And I will. I apologise to everyone, but the truth is that I was the one who was harmed the most. I harmed myself, I would have liked to always be here and it wasn’t possible after what happened.
- How was it in the run-up to this call-up?
- I always hoped that one day I could return and help, as long as I was playing well for my club. I didn’t receive any phone call, and no one said: “Hey, you’re going to be called up”. I was hoping but I only knew about it on the day itself when I got the fax saying that I’d be selected. When I found out … you can imagine … everyone sent me messages, I spoke with everyone, I was very happy.
- Did this call-up remind you of what happened three years ago?
- No. The truth is that it was a very important and happy day after being three years without representing my country. I only thought about good things.
- Was your relationship with Pepe [who was picked ahead of RC three years ago, causing him to storm out of the training camp] affected?
- Maybe. The truth is that it wasn’t the right thing to do on my part. But I had to be true to myself and all the Portuguese, and that’s what happened at that moment. I should have been correct with everyone and it wasn’t the best way to say things.
- Do you think that you can still be picked in 2016? Do you dream of going out in a big tournament?
- The truth is that at this moment I’m not setting the bar so high. After a certain age, we look at things year by year, we make annual contracts. Of course I’ll do everything to continue to play in order to renew my contract. And it will be a great honour if I can be at Euro 2016.
- Do you think that at this time the most important thing is to win matches and not actually renew the Seleção?
- I think so, the principle has to be that. It’s important for Portugal to be there in 2016. We’ll have to think game by game, to try to win the next and gain confidence for the team to be at the Euro.
- Don’t you think that this group lacks young players in central defence?
- We have to be a bit patient. In 2004, no one thought that I would appear at such a high level, but I did. At any moment a new, young player could appear in my position. We can’t predict the future. I speak with Bernardo Silva [RC’s team-mate at Mónaco] of the U-21s and he tells me that there are players with a lot of potential, so we should let the youngsters grow. I’m here to help whoever appears.
- Is a week enough to prepare two games after so many alterations?
- I know most of my team-mates and of course, as we lost the first game, the second has become more important now. This training camp is important for us to get to know each other better to go to the Denmark game at a good level. But the France game is also important for us to get to know each other, to play together, but we also have training sessions. If we all do our best, the team can improve.
- Do you think about revenge against France?
- In football, you can’t think about revenge. The truth is that I have good memories of that World Cup [2016 in Germany], but afterwards we lost to France in the semi-finals. It’s a good game because it’s against a great team and it’s good preparation for our next game. Denmark have given us a lot of trouble, we’re going to know them better now and it’s sure to be a little different. And it’s time to show that we’re better and win the game.
- On what he can contribute to the Seleção
- I’m at a certain age and have a certain amount of experience, but I’m here to help. I know that we have two important games and I’m prepared to play 180 or zero minutes. I’m here to help, and that’s what matters. Even if I don’t play, I have to work to continue to be called up to help my country.
- On experience over renewal
We [RC + Tiago and Danny] have returned because we’re playing very well for our clubs. If not, we wouldn’t be here. We know that renewal is a priority and we believe that we, the more experienced players, can help the youngsters. I remember that when I was a young player, the one who was playing in my position was Fernando Couto. In 2003 and 2004 he played in the qualifying games and when the Euro came around, I was in. Everyone has his role to play and it’s important to have experienced players here to help the youngsters.
(Interview with Pedro Soares in A Bola, 08 October 2014)
João Mário (midfielder, Sporting)
- On his first call-up
- The first sensations are positive. I’ve been well received by everyone and I’m proud to be here. They’re unique moments. For me it’s very special as it’s the first time I’ve been called up to the senior squad. I’ve worked hard so that they’d consider me. I also want to thank mister Paulo Bento for having included my in the pre-Seleção for Brazil.
- On having so many Sporting team-mates in the squad
- They’re more experienced than me, players like Nani, who’s helped me a lot. It’s a proud thing for Sporting to have six players here. We all want to help Portugal and I’m grateful to my Sporting team-mates for making this adaptation easier. If mister Fernando Santos wants to use Sporting’s current midfield, that’s good, but we know that there are other options. I have routines with William Carvalho and Adrien, but it depends on the coach.
- On Fernando Santos’ FIFA ban from the bench
- I don’t think it will be a big problem. If the Federation have bet on mister Fernando Santos knowing of the limitations that exist, I think that the team won’t see any problem in that. Of course we’d like to have him on the bench, we know that we can’t have him, but we have to adapt ourselves to that and it’s not going to influence our results.