Tag Archives: Fernando Santos

Fernando Santos’ lack of planning will cost Portugal a place in Qatar 2022

The European World Cup qualifier playoffs are finally upon us and that means we’ll find out which one of, if any, of Portugal or Italy will make it to Qatar at the end of the year.

Both teams failed to qualify through their groups, with a last minute defeat to Serbia costing Portugal their place, and now they’ve been placed on the same playoff path.

They’ll now take on Turkey, while Italy face North Macedonia and the winners face each other next week to finalise their place. But I’m willing to bet it won’t be my beloved Portugal at the end of it all.



News came out this week after coach Fernando Santos announced his squad that there are big issues.

Joao Cancelo and Renato Sanches are suspended for the game against Turkey after too many yellow cards in the qualifying group, while Nelson Semedo, Ruben Neves and Ruben Dias are all out of the squad completely through injury.

Then it was revealed that Pepe, the veteran and world class central defender, has tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t be available against Turkey either, with his availability in a potential final in question too.

That means a likely central defensive pairing of 38-year-old Jose Fonte and defensive midfielder Danilo will be formed to try and carry the team into the World Cup, which screams down horribly upon the reign of Santos as manager.

Yes he won Euro 2016 and it was a magical, magical moment in the team and country’s history. Nobody is disputing that and it correctly earned him credit in the bank with fans and the FA.

But six years on and there has been little to no progression in the squad, while Portugal haven’t progressed past the first knockout round in any of the following tournaments.

They won the UEFA Nations League, but if we’re all being honest, that isn’t a major international honour and will never be considered as such.

The lack of progress under him can be seen just by looking at the squad for this set of games. There was a possibility, before Pepe’s positive test, that Santos could have named the same back five and defensive midfielder for these games as he did in that 2016 Euro’s final.

It’s ghastly and the lack of any youth options in the centre of defence to come through in that time is frightening.

Ruben Dias barely counts, because he was always going to make it. Captain of Benfica at a young age and clearly heads and shoulder above those at his age level, he was fast-tracked and rightly so.

But the likes of Goncalo Inacio, Tiago Djalo and David Carmo have never had a look in. Ezri Konsa is eligible to be called up, but Santos has never even pretended to look into it. He’s just stuck with the players he already knows.

Somehow in 2021, Luis Neto was still getting call ups.

Now, in a situation where it’s likely to be the final World Cup opportunity for the likes of legends like Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Joao Moutinho is relying on players that are below par over-performing or stepping up immediately from a lower level.

Even if they manage to get past a tough Turkey side on Thursday night, that’s surely going to be too much to ask when they inevitably come up against the European champions Italy in the final.

You can’t hope for things at the highest level. Santos has had plenty of chances in the past to blood young defenders in the same way he has midfielders and attackers.

If they now fail to make it to the greatest tournament on the planet for the first time since 1998, then the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Santos.

Fernando Santos on borrowed time with Portugal

At the start of the international break this month, Portugal were in pole position to have their qualification status for Qatar 2022 all wrapped up.

They travelled to face the Republic of Ireland in a bit of a dead rubber game, because regardless of the result it was the final game against Serbia on Sunday night that mattered.

A 0-0 draw with Ireland changed nothing. Portugal needed a draw in the home game against Serbia to secure top spot on goal difference, while a victory would leave no question as to whether they deserved it or not.



The pre-game press conference once again led to Fernando Santos making a promise to Portugal fans.

“Tomorrow, we will qualify for the World Cup.”

They didn’t. Despite a goal from Renato Sanches in the second minute that gave them the lead, Portugal were poor throughout. Serbia equalised in the first half thanks to Dusan Tadic, whose strike took a slight deflection off Danilo and meant Rui Patricio could only deflect the ball into his own net.

Portugal barely created any chances in the game, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to register a single shot on target in the game for the first time in the entire qualifying campaign.

But in the 93rd minute, Aleksandar Mitrovic slammed a header in at the near post to book Serbia’s ticket to Qatar and condemn Portugal to a play-off that makes their participation at the World Cup far from certain.

Santos has been in charge of Portugal since September 2014, when he took over from Carlos Quieroz after a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The former Greece manager saved that campaign and led them in that World Cup, before then winning Euro 2016. He then led the team into the 2018 World Cup, where as European champions they really disappointed by crashing out in the round of 16 to Uruguay.

That should’ve been the trigger for Santos to depart, but instead Portugal opted to keep him and gave him the extra credit of winning Euro 2016. He responded by winning the first ever version of the UEFA Nations League the following year, defeating Holland in the final.

Since then however, it’s not been great going. Portugal struggled at Euro 2020 to a late win over Hungary in the opening group game before a defeat to Germany and a draw with France put them through as a best third-placed team. They were then beaten by Belgium, once again failing to really create much going forward.

Head coach Fernando Santos of Portugal, is seen during the UEFA EURO 2020, Round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja...

Now with this latest failure, it seems like his time as being the right man for the job is probably over.

With the squad at his disposal, he is a totally wrong fit for the team. Santos is constantly putting defence first when trying to sort a squad out, despite the abundance of attacking talent he has available to him.

The first thought of the manager is always not to lose rather than to win, which fitted well with expectations when he first took over but not so much anymore.

This is a squad that is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world with a bit of tactical invention and good structure.

With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Ronaldo among the ranks then this is a team very capable of scoring goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal , Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes warm up prior the friendly football match between Portugal and Andorra, at the Luz...

With a four month period now between the failure and the play-offs in March, there is a chance to make a change now and bring in a more attack-minded coach like Leonardo Jardim to get the best out of this upcoming generation of attacking talent.

Santos is on borrowed time with Portugal and they have a chance to make it right before they miss out on a World Cup competition for the first time since 2002.

Portugal: Don’t Fear The Big Boys Anymore – You’re One Of Them

For years and years, Portugal have been considered to be in the second tier of international football.

The giants like France, Germany, Brazil and Argentina have always been considered the better teams at international level, with the best talent always seemingly having one of those passports to their name.

Portugal have been grouped with the likes of England and Holland as perennial under-achievers despite having plenty of talent in their squad. It’s all changed now though.

After consecutive 0-0 draws against France and Spain, it may seem like a weird conclusion to come to. But this is the final stretch of a long process that has seen Portugal win the last two competitive tournaments they have been a part of – including the European Championships in 2016.

Plenty of fans and critics like to point out that Portugal won just one of their games in that entire tournament during the initial 90 minutes, the 2-0 semi-final win over Wales. What they fail to mention is they didn’t lose any games during the tournament. Fernando Santos has done a fantastic job of making Portugal almost impenetrable defensively.

Since losing to Uruguay in the World Cup Round of 16 back in 2018, Portugal have only lost one game in all competitions – friendlies included. They’ve beaten Italy, Holland, Serbia, Croatia, and Sweden in that time, while also drawing against France, Spain and Croatia too.

Luxembourg v Portugal - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier : News Photo

They’ve also managed to get a squad together which is arguably among the top 3 in the world in terms of pure talent. Defensively, Rui Patricio patrols a backline expertly well as a man with his experience should. In front of him, Pepe is arguably one of the most underrated defenders of all-time ad next to him is an undeniable prospect in Ruben Dias. At full-back the Selecçao have incredible depth with the likes of Ricardo Pereira, João Cancelo, Nelson Semedo and Raphael Guerreiro in the current group while youngsters like Nuno Mendes are coming through too.

In midfield they arguably have the deepest pool of options outside of the French. Danilo Pereira and William Carvalho provide a solid base to build from, with a wide passing range to go with their defensive capabilities. Both men have expert positioning and are great at reading the game, which allows the attacking players to flourish. Other options in the deeper positions include João Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes and Renato Sanches too.

In the more attacking midfield positions the depth continues. In addition to guaranteed starters Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes, Portugal’s options include Gonçalo Guedes, Trinçao, Diogo Jota and Rafa Silva for different occasions.

Portugal’s weakest position is arguably in centre forward and yet they still have the greatest goalscorer in modern football history. Cristiano Ronaldo has moved away from the left-wing position in recent years to a more central role and he’s flourished. During Sky’s broadcast of the draw with France they revealed a stunning stat. If you took all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals for Portugal score prior to his 30th birthday, he would still be their all-time top goalscorer with 49 goals. Alongside him, young prospect João Felix is making a name for himself while Andre Silva provides a reliable goal threat in the squad too.

With Santos looking to pair Felix and Ronaldo together going forward, Portugal’s strongest XI is arguably one of the best in world football right now. With a manager and captain who believe in winning by any means necessary too, they need fans to start believing now. Previously against the top sides, Portugal would hang back and defend and look to counter-attack with Ronaldo leading the charge but these last two performances have shown progression; Portugal can go toe-to-toe with the best.

It’s time for Portugal to stop worrying about the prospect of facing the big boys at tournaments now – they’re one of them.