Paris (AFP) – Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to make amends for a poor performance and some unwise words when his side take on Austria at Euro 2016 on Saturday.
Ronaldo was frustrated in his opening Group F game in a 1-1 draw with Iceland on their debut in a major finals, and then drew the ire of Europe for lambasting the North Atlantic minnows for their “small mentality” because of their defensive tactics.
Iceland’s defence froze out Ronaldo who is looking for a goal that will make him the first to score in four European Championship tournaments.
The Real Madrid ace has been criticised across the continent for his petulant outburst with Iceland’s Karni Arnason labelling him “not a gracious human being”.
Thankfully, for Ronaldo’s sake, Austria will also need to attack after a side led by Bayern Munich’s David Alaba — increasingly rated after their stunning qualifying campaign — were shocked 2-0 by neighbours Hungary in their opening game.
Despite a forgiving format allowing 16 of the 24 teams to progress to the knockout stages, defeat for either side will leave them facing an embarrassing early exit.
“This is just another match, we’re always playing under a lot of pressure, we’ve been under pressure since we got here. It’s not going to change how we work at all,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
“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.”
Portugal dominated against Iceland, the smallest country ever to take part in the Euros with a population of just 330,000, but Santos expects a much more open game against Austria.
“After Iceland scored all 10 players went behind the ball. Austria will not defend with 10 players, we won’t either so this will be a very different match.
“We’re not one of the teams that waits and sees what happens, and I’m sure that Austria won’t just stick to the counter-attack, they will try to attack in a positive manner.
“There will be more space and we won’t have 70 percent possession. It will be a tougher match.”
However, the Austrians will be without suspended defender Aleksandar Dragovic, whilst midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic’s tournament looks to be over after he suffered ankle ligament damage against the Hungarians.
“It’s obviously going to be a tough challenge but we’re prepared and we know what to do,” said captain Christian Fuchs, adding that Austria were willing to take on Portugal.
“It’s not our way of playing to defend only, we like to have a lot of possession and play football.
“If it’s necessary against Portugal with all those great players they have then we will also defend, but we are there to score a few goals and we want to win this game.”
Austria coach Marcel Koller believes his side froze under the favourites tag against Hungary on their first major finals for eight years.
“Maybe some players were nervous because it was the beginning. We can’t just push a button and say ‘now I’m going to play at my best level’.
“The situation now is we’ll have to try and win against Portugal.”
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