Euro 2020: Pepe and Santos demand desire from Portugal against France
Holders Portugal face the prospect of their Euro 2020 campaign ending at the group stage, with a positive result against Didier Deschamps’ world champions on Wednesday their target to guarantee progress, although a narrow defeat could still see them progress as one of the four best third-placed teams.
The good work from an opening 3-0 win over Hungary was undone in a 4-2 defeat to Germany in Munich, when a usually obdurate Portugal defence was repeatedly undone as Joachim Low’s 3-4-3 system granted his team numerical superiority in attack.
Left wing-back Robin Gosens tormented Portugal right-back Nelson Semedo and contributed an assist and a goal after half-time, as the Selecao became the first defending European champions to concede four goals in a single match at the competition.
However, it was the excitement that Atalanta player Gosens showed when Germany won corners that caught veteran centre-back Pepe’s eye.
“Against Germany, I have a very clear picture in my mind. Whenever the left full-back got a corner, they were very happy,” Pepe said.
“That shows how much they wanted to beat us. We have to want it as much as Germany did in order to make it through and achieve our goals.
“When we win we all win, when we lose we all lose. That’s what makes us a very strong, cohesive group.
“We need to have our lines closer together, we need to support each other. Over the last few years we’ve shown what Portugal is like, we have good quality players and all work together.”
Head coach Fernando Santos echoed Pepe’s sentiments, acknowledging his side lacked their usual balance between attack and defence last time out.
“We did a thorough analysis of the game and looked at what we could have done better. I think we all reached a similar type of conclusion,” Santos said. “It wasn’t our usual type of game, it wasn’t the Portuguese style.
“The crucial element in the game is to balance the team, it’s not about the best or the worst. Every single team on Earth can be aggressive and supportive of one another.
“We know that France will play like this, We need to fight more, want it more and be more organised than they are.
“If we put our quality out there and they do, then it can swing either way. We need to be very focused and very strong in every area of the pitch and every moment of the game.”
Santos pledged not to make wholesale changes, while acknowledging the quick turnaround in games and high temperatures in Budapest have had a sapping effect.
In terms of strategy, the veteran tactician stated it was important to right the wrong of his team’s Munich missteps.
“As for changes, I could change every single player – I’m joking, of course! It’s not about changing everyone,” he added.
“We played four at the back and we were fully aware that we were under-manned. Against lower-ranked teams we can attack with more people and our midfielders play differently than the German midfielders.
“France play up front with three very mobile players. Benzema and Griezmann are very mobile players. In the last third we will have four against three, sometimes we will have four against four.
“We’re focused. If we play a very intensive game, with the right kind of focus, play out from the back and make the opponent run, then I think we have a very good chance of winning.”
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