DOHA: Portugal head coach Fernando Santos said his squad is in a vibrant mode against the crucial Qatar 2022 World Cup quarterfinal clash against giant-killers Morocco on Saturday.
The match will kick off at 7 pm (Oman Time) at the Al Thumama Stadium, Doha.
“We are poised to continue what we have done against Switzerland. Our players are confident of getting through the difficult game against Morocco,” he said during the pre-match press conference in Doha.
The experienced veteran coach said the Portugal players know about their opponents’ ability and style of play.
“We are fully aware of the credentials of the Moroccan players. At the same time, we are focusing on our job to win the quarterfinal,” Santos said.
On the frequently asked questions about star player Cristiano Ronaldo, Santos requested to close the controversies about Ronaldo.
He denied reports that Ronaldo wanted to leave the squad after being benched for their World Cup victory over Switzerland.
Ronaldo came in late as a substitute in Portugal’s resounding 6-1 win against Switzerland in the last-16 match.
Ronaldo also had angrily denied reports from Portugal that he wanted to leave the World Cup team.
Santos said: “Ronaldo never told me he wanted to leave. It's time to finish this. He left the dressing room against Switzerland, warmed up, and went out for a run to celebrate the goals with his team-mates.
“He called his team-mates to thank them for their effort. He marched alone. Let's leave Cristiano Ronaldo alone.'
Santos, while opening up when he informed Ronaldo of his decision, insisted they had a 'normal conversation' and could understand why his player was unhappy.
The manager said: “He never told me that he was going to leave. He did not tell me. You have to see how his attitude is. He celebrated the goals with his team-mates, thanked the fans.”
However, it will be a big decision for Santos whether to continue with the strategy against Switzerland or start with Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was replaced with youngster Goncalo Ramos, who netted a hat-trick in a one-sided victory for Portugal.
MOROCCO AIM ANOTHER SURPRISE
Morocco manager Walid Regragui said his side will aim to make another surprise at the World Cup after becoming the first African coach to lead his team to the quarterfinals.
“We are excited to be in the quarterfinal. And we are ready for another surprise. We are not the favourites but we have the capability to do something remarkable,” Walid told reporters.
The Morocco coach thanked the support from Arab and African fans after their shoot-out win over favourites Spain in the last-16 clash.
“Thanks for the wonderful support from across the world, especially Morocco, Arab and African countries. This gives us a lot of energy for our big match against Portugal.”
“We will give our best in the match and make our supporters proud,” the coach added.
“We will not focus on how Portugal are playing. We will try to concentrate on our plans. We have a good plan against Portugal,” the coach, nicknamed ‘Mr Avacado Head’ due to the shape of his head, concluded.
Having defeated Spain on penalties to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time, Morocco are seeking to become the competition’s first African semifinalists.
Portugal, racked up the round of 16’s biggest win in overwhelming Switzerland 6-1, Goncalo Ramos becoming the Fifa World Cup 2022’s first hat-trick scorer on his first international start.
The teams have met twice before, both in decisive Fifa World Cup group matches. Morocco were 3-1 winners at Mexico ’86, whereas it was Portugal who emerged victorious in 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an early header in a 1-0 victory for Fernando Santos’s side.
Portugal have won both of their previous World Cup quarterfinals, 5-3 against Korea DPR in 1966 and 3-1 on penalties after a 0-0 draw with England in 2006. Morocco have yet to concede in three matches against European sides in Qatar, while Portugal defeated African opponents Ghana 3-2 in their opening match.