The Portugal boss has been keen to stress the importance of his team’s performance against Spain, and not just that of his captain
Portugal coach Fernando Santos has dismissed the notion of his side needing to rely on Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of their World Cup clash with Morocco.
The Real Madrid star struck a hat-trick in his side’s opening 3-3 draw with Spain last Friday to move onto 84 goals for his country, level with the record for a European international player set by Hungary great Ferenc Puskas.
Ronaldo’s exploits seemed even more impressive when Barcelona rival Lionel Messi missed a penalty as his Argentina side slipped to a 1-1 draw with tournament debutant Iceland a day later.
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Santos was not willing to enter the debate around which of the world’s most renowned forwards are more important to their national teams, though.
When asked that question by a Spanish reporter at a news conference on Tuesday, he replied in English: “I understand you, I understand you.”
He then continued in Portuguese: “We play Morocco [on Wednesday]. I hope Cristiano plays a great match. We’re used to that, not only from the last match but his career as a whole. I hope he and our team are ready.
“Portugal were European champions with Ronaldo because the captain is very important, but I’ve never seen a player win a match on his own.”
There were some claims Ronaldo was suggesting he should be seen as the greatest player of all time when he celebrated one of his goals against Spain by stroking his chin, although the so-called ‘goat’ gesture was dismissed by Santos as “normal in Portugal”.
He also gave short shrift to a question about whether the 33-year-old is out to break Just Fontaine’s record of 13 goals in a single World Cup campaign.
“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “This is a World Cup. These are national teams. The important thing for me is to respect the Moroccan team. We have to be focused and that’s our goal. We have to win and that’s what we care about.”
Portugal could put themselves in a commanding position in Group B if they beat Morocco, who lost 1-0 to Iran in their opening match.
Santos does not fear complacency could become a problem, though, despite being reminded about Portugal’s famous 3-1 defeat to the same opposition back in 1986.
“Most of my players weren’t born in 1986 so it’s hard to talk about something they didn’t see,” he said. “We have respect and humility which always helps us.
“Morocco are very good, they’re one of the best African sides. They’re very experienced, they have players mostly playing in Europe, in Italy, Holland, France, so it’s a very well-organised team.”