Santos opted for a top three in Lisbon from Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva and João Felix, and Jota was introduced shortly after Kante’s goal.
Fernando Santos defends his decision
Fernando Santos protected his option to start Diogo Jota on the bench as Portugal fell to France in the UEFA Nations League. N’Golo Kante’s 53-minute goal was enough for France on Saturday as the world champions claimed first place in Group A3 and a place in the final. Santos opted for a top three in Lisbon from Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva and João Felix, and Jota was introduced shortly after Kante’s goal. The Liverpool forward had eight passes in the opposition half, as many as Silva managed in his 72 minutes, but finished without a shot on goal.
But Santos said the attack was not a problem for Portugal against France, defending the decision to start Jota from the bench. “As I said, this team played in France and did very well there. And I don’t remember anyone asking me why Diogo Jota didn’t start the game,” the Portugal coach told a news conference.
Portugal team have collective problems
“Jota is a top-quality player, and everyone knows that. So are Bernardo and Cristiano. And Felix too. If Jota played and the team’s performance was not good, you would ask me why Bernardo or Felix did not play like Felix is in top form at Atlético Madrid and Bernardo is Bernardo. It’s okay. I understand your question, and I’m alright with it. It’s normal to listen to these questions after playing. But I don’t believe this is our problem. We had joint problems, and we couldn’t stop France from playing. And maybe one or another problem in the midfield too”. The loss ended Portugal’s Nations League defence after they were crowned inaugural champions last year. While Santos lamented their exit, he looked forward to their final group game against Croatia on Tuesday.
“Bad, very bad. It’s hard for me and it’s hard for the players too. It’s hard to accept. And we won’t sleep tonight. But even without sleeping, tomorrow we need to focus on Tuesday’s game,” he said. “We are responsible for playing this game, and we represent Portugal. Portuguese fans are used to seeing this team play well and win games. Fortunately, we won a lot of games. I guess today was my fourth defeat in the national team since I got here. So we have to keep our heads up. Tomorrow will be difficult, but we have to move on and focus on playing against Croatia. We have to go there and play well as this team used to do.”