Santos: Poland ‘are a very strong team’

Portugal coach Fernando Santos has acknowledged that his side will have to be at their very best if they are to defeat Poland in their Euro 2016 quarter-final on Thursday. 

Portugal have not looked convincing throughout the tournament as they finished third in the Group F standings behind Hungary and debutants Iceland.

After managing to claw their way into the round of 16, Portugal needed an added extra time winner from Ricardo Quaresma to see off Croatia and book their spot in the last eight.

Poland, on the other hand, finished second in Group C, with only goal difference separating them and group winners Germany. After making it through to the round of 16, Poland had to win a penalty shootout to down a spirited Switzerland side.

Despite this, Santos sees neither side as favourites heading into the battle for a spot in the semi-finals.

“They are a very strong team, and in the qualifying round and the group stage here we were able to see this,” he told reporters. “In the group stage only two teams had seven points and Poland were one of them. In the qualifiers they beat Germany and they drew with Germany here.

“Both teams have the same goal, they want to go through and play the semi-finals. I believe we will go through, my Polish counterpart thinks his team will go through. There is not a favourite, it’s a 50/50 game.”

Santos added that he believes the game against Poland will be similar to the one against Croatia, where Portugal had to dig deep to emerge victorious.

“I think like the Croatia game it’s going to be very balanced. From what I’ve seen Poland don’t resemble any of the sides we’ve played so far,” he said. “They are well organised, play a strategic game but attack very well. They go from defence to attack very quickly and you can see there’s a lot of work being done in the background. They also have very good individual players who can make a difference.

“Against Croatia, strategy was the main point. Both teams worked hard but both were strategically well set. Sometimes there is a knot you simply cannot untie.”

He added: “In some matches there are more defensive moments than offensive, not because that was the plan but it just happens. Whether that’s the case on Thursday we will see, but I’m sure it’s going to be a very balanced match.”

Meanwhile, Santos also insisted that Cristiano Ronaldo will not be deciding factor in the game and added that it will take a team effort to defeat Poland.

“Everyone’s talking about him and there’s a reason for that,” he said. “Why does everyone talk about Cristiano? It’s because he’s an amazing player and people talk a lot about amazing players.

“There are hundreds of players here in France and we don’t talk about them. But it is normal to talk about Cristiano, Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer etc.

“All our players know how to deal with that and Cristiano knows how to deal with that as well. I have 23 players in very good form, and a couple who have injury concerns.

“They are all highly motivated, they know what they want and it’s the team who will win this match. At this stage, talent is an added value but tournaments are won by a team. My team are trying to do that, they are very brave and they will try to put in to practice all their talent.”