Ahead of today’s crucial clash against Austria, Portugal coach backs Ronaldo & Co in Iceland row as the star footballer looks to make amends following an insipid start
Paris: Portugal coach Fernando Santos threw his support behind Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday after the Real Madrid superstar was widely lambasted for describing Iceland as having a “small mentality” following their 1-1 draw at Euro 2016.
Portugal were held in their opening Group F match on Tuesday by the Nordic island nation and Ronaldo slammed Iceland for their defensive approach, prompting a stream of criticism.
Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in a cheerful mood during a training session in Marcoussis ahead of their Euro clash against Austria. Pic/AFP
“When people talk about fair play sometimes it makes me want to laugh,” said Santos ahead of today’s crucial clash with Austria here.
“Because when we talk about other people and other people’s reactions, in Portugal we usually say that if you don’t feel (emotions), you’re not really a good person.”
Iceland midfielder Kari Arnason labelled Ronaldo “not a gracious human being” for his petulant post-match rant.
'Ronaldo was heckled'
However, Santos claimed Iceland had no reason to be upset after their coach Lars Lagerback had stoked tensions before the game by claiming Portugal defender Pepe’s play-acting when representing Real Madrid in the Champions League final had been worthy of a Hollywood performance.
“After what the Iceland manager said and some players said, what they did for 90 minutes, they booed Pepe and Ronaldo.
“The players on the bench kept heckling Pepe, so like I said we have feelings and sometimes will respond the way we can in a very emotional way.”
For Ronaldo’s sake, Austria will also need to attack after a side led by Bayern Munich’s David Alaba — increasingly rated after their stunning qualifying campaign — were shocked 2-0 by neighbours Hungary in their opening game.
Despite a forgiving format allowing 16 of the 24 teams to progress to the knockout stages, defeat for either side will leave them facing an embarrassing early exit.
“The group is relaxed, and despite the draw we still feel good,” said Portuguese teenager Renato Sanches, who will team up with Alaba at Bayern next season after sealing a 35 million euro move from Benfica.