KEIR RADNEDGE in LYON: The last time Portugal reached the final of the European Championship Fernando Santos was up in the stands, commenting; on Sunday he will be the focus of all the commentators himself.
Santos recalled events of 2004, when Portugal lost to Greece, after attaining what he described as the pinnacle of his career following the 2-0 win over Wales on goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani in the semi-final here of Euro 2016.
He said: “Twelve years ago at the final I was a commentator for radio because only one of the 22 players had not played for me in clubs in Greece or Portugal.
“Now this final will be the highest point in my career so far, professionally speaking. It’s my country, my flag, my fatherland, my family, my friends.”
Whoever provide the opposition, hosts France or world champions Germany, Santos promised that he would come up with an appropriately tailored strategy, as he had against Wales in a 13th successive unbeaten game.
He said: “We always have an attacking game plan and a defensive game plan. We knew we were not the best team in the tournament but we also know we were not pushovers.
“Its not to beat Portugal. We study our opponents to minimise surprises in defence. Wales were very different from all our previous opponents in that they have very pacey players up front and move the ball forward very quickly. So we tried to prevent them playing the ball behind our defence.
“As for the attack, we knew we had to find the right passes and score as well. So this game plan worked.
“Sometimes we have played pretty football, other times not as pretty but we dont care. Sometimes you play poorly and win and sometimes you play great match and don’t win. But we’re in it to win it and I always set up the team with the best possible strategy.”
In fact, Santos’s planning went right back to his first match in charge which had been, by coincidence, in the Stade de France in ??.
He recalled: “Two years ago we set a goal to be here in the final in Saint-Denis which we have achieved with a lot of unity and effort and work – including with the cooperation of many players who are not here today in the 23. But they were all crucial.
“Now we have a final to play . . . but it’s not all about just playing the final, it’s about winning. Let’s believe.”
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