Portugal’s Santos defends ‘good person’ Ronaldo

Paris (AFP) – Portugal coach Fernando Santos threw his support behind Cristiano Ronaldo on Friday after the Real Madrid superstar was widely lambasted for describing Iceland as having a “small mentality” following their 1-1 draw at Euro 2016.

Portugal were held in their opening Group F match on Tuesday by the Nordic island nation and Ronaldo slammed Iceland for their defensive approach, prompting a stream of criticism.

“When people talk about fair play sometimes it makes me want to laugh,” said Santos ahead of Saturday’s crucial clash with Austria in Paris.

“Because when we talk about other people and other people’s reactions, in Portugal we usually say that if you don’t feel, you’re not really a good person.”

Iceland midfielder Kari Arnason labelled Ronaldo “not a gracious human being” for his petulant post-match rant.

However, Santos claimed Iceland had no reason to be upset after their coach Lars Lagerback had stoked tensions before the game by claiming Portugal defender Pepe’s play-acting when representing Real Madrid in the Champions League final had been worthy of a Hollywood performance.

“After what the Iceland manager said and some players said, and what they did for 90 minutes, they booed Pepe and Ronaldo.

“The players on the bench kept heckling Pepe, so like I said we have feelings and sometimes people will respond the way they can in a very emotional way.”

Ronaldo was kept quiet in his bid to become the first player to score in four European Championships, but Santos said confidence remained high in the Portugal camp going into their game at the Parc des Princes.

“We’ve come here believing in what we can do, there’s no reason to feel shaken or to shake the players’ belief in themselves,” he said.

“They know they have quality and they believe in themselves and they said it was very easy to bounce back.”

Hungary are the surprise Group F leaders after stunning Austria 2-0 in their first game at a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

That has left Austria, who have been touted as tournament dark horses, in desperate need of a positive result against Portugal.

Despite the pressure mounting on both sides, Santos insisted his team’s approach would be the same as it was against Iceland.

“After the first matchday maybe a bit of pressure has been added but the game itself hasn’t changed. It’s not going to change how we work at all.

“Austria will not defend with 10 players (behind the ball), we won’t either so this will be a very different match.”

Goalkeeper Rui Patricio stressed he and his Portugal team-mates had turned the page on a disappointing opening result, with the aim on reigniting their campaign against Austria.

“We didn’t get what we wanted against Iceland, but now we’re focused on tomorrow.

“Our confidence has not been shattered, we know the kind of quality we can put on the pitch and we’ll do everything to win.”

 

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