Portugal boss Santos urges team to keep focus

Portugal manager Fernando Santos called on his players to stay grounded after reaching the World Cup quarterfinals with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday.

Goncalo Ramos netted a hat-trick in his first international start while Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target at Lusail stadium. A second half goal from Manuel Akanji provided some temporary respite in an otherwise forgettable night for the Swiss.

“We played well and it gives a lot of confidence,” Santos said. “But I told the players not to be too excited and euphoric. We have to be careful not to have too much fun because you can make things more complicated. I don’t think that happened tonight and I don’t want it to.”

The result means Portugal will meet Morocco at Al-Thumama stadium in Doha on Saturday (Dec. 10), with a berth in the semifinals at stake, reports Xinhua.

Santos said his decision to start with Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench had nothing to do with the 37-year-old’s attitude.

In his pre-match press conference, Santos said he was unhappy with Ronaldo’s expletive-laden outburst when substituted in the 2-1 defeat to South Korea last Friday.

But the former Greece national team manager said the issue had now been dealt with.

“Those issues have been resolved,” Santos said. “We have to look at [Ronaldo’s] history and what he’s achieved. He’s one of the best players ever to play the game.

“I have a close relationship with him and that relationship has only developed. We’ve never mixed the human relationship with the one between player and manager. I will always consider him as a very important player.”

When asked if Ronaldo could return to the starting lineup against Morocco, Santos replied: “Cristiano will be among 24 players participating. If they don’t start, they will be on the bench and can be brought on.”

Meanwhile, Switzerland manager Murat Yakin denied that his position was under threat after his team was eliminated from the World Cup with a 6-1 loss to Portugal.

The 48-year-old, who took charge of the national team in August last year, said he had no intention to leave before his contract expires in 2024.

“We lost a game today and that doesn’t mean we have to be too pessimistic and criticize everything,” Yakin told a news conference.

“The team showed great spirit and we had big plans but unfortunately they didn’t work out. It’s something we have to put behind us now. We will get over this as a team and we have to look forward.”

Switzerland started their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Cameroon and suffered a 1-0 loss to Brazil before ending the group stage with a 3-2 victory over Serbia.

Yakin praised his team’s performance during the group stage but admitted they had no answer to Portugal’s pace and deadly finishing.

“We had great plans and we wanted to make history here,” he said. “We showed great football in the group stage but today we faced a better opponent.

“We’re sad to be dropping out [of the World Cup]. We can still be proud of what we achieve because we had our moments. But in the end we lacked the strength and the freshness… and there was nothing more that we could do.”

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