Criticism is part of the job, say Silva and Martínez before France quarterfinal

Portugal’s manager Roberto Martínez and midfielder Bernardo Silva said the criticism they have received at EURO2024 is part of the job before they meet joint tournament favourites France in tomorrow’s quarterfinal.

Portugal have had a couple of disappointing results so far in Germany, but both insisted some of the criticism has been harsh.

What did Bernardo Silva say?

The Manchester City player spent a fair amount of his press conference addressing critics of Portugal despite their progress to the quarterfinals.

“I know we can improve but I don’t think we’re doing poorly.

“This is the knockout stage of a EURO and these teams are very well organised. They defend in low blocks with five or six at the back, and they want every man behind the ball. Sometimes, it’s hard to create as many chances as we want to or as we should.

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“I think we are well placed to ensure we can reach the semis and be close to winning the EUROs, and to that end we must be doing something right.

“We need a Portugal at a very high level to beat France – I don’t agree when you say we’ve not been playing at a good enough level because we’re one of the eight best teams in Europe.

“Maybe it’s not as much of a display for the people watching at home, but we have been doing an amazing job otherwise we wouldn’t be here in the quarter finals.

“I think we’re in a great position to fight for the win... As for favourites, I don’t think there is one favourite – I think these are two national teams with amazing players, amazing squads, any players can make a difference. They have their own way of playing and they legitimately want to win the EUROs so I don’t see a favourite.”

Portugal have had a rougher ride than they perhaps expected in their last two games, losing 2-0 to tournament debutants Georgia in the group stgae and squeezing past Slovenia thorugh a penalty shootout in the round of 16. That dramatic encounter saw Cristiano Ronaldo in tears after his extra-time penalty was saved by Jan Oblak.

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“We felt relieved, we felt happy,” said Silva on the win against Slovenia. “It’s not easy to go to a penalty shoot-out and play the way we played. We felt we deserved to qualify for the quarter-finals. We had a hero as Player of the Match – Diogo Costa – and we’re training hard to be ready for France.”

He himself scored the penalty that sealed the deal for his country: “You can imagine it’s not easy to play this emotionally charged competition and take on the responsibility of missing, it can happen to anyone. So I’m very happy to have helped our team, and very, very proud.”

Moving to tomorrow’s opposition, he added: “I don’t know how France will be playing, I don’t know whether they’ll defend with a higher block, a lower block. Looking at the type of players they have, I think they’re not geared to defend with 11 players behind the ball for 90 minutes – so there may be more space throughout the team.”

He was, unsurprisingly, asked about French captain Kylian Mbappé and whether the game marked a passing of the baton from his skipper Ronaldo to the Frenchman.

“Kylian is a wonderful player. He started with us at Monaco at 16 and, after a week, I’d look at João Moutinho and say ‘Who is this kid?’ He stood out from the crowd. In my last season with Monaco, he scored so many goals and really shone in the Champions League. I’m delighted he’s been able to have a blossoming career and I wish him the best for his career – but not tomorrow, obviously!

“(Tomorrow) is not about Kylian and Cristiano, it’s about Portugal and France. They’re definitely two unbelievable players at different stages of their careers – Cristiano is one of the best players that ever played the game, Kylian is still going through the begging or middle of his career, but the most important thing is that it’s not about them, it’s about Portugal and France, and we as a team want to qualify for the semi finals.”

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He addressed the criticism faced by Ronaldo after his tearful penalty miss episode.

“We understand it, it’s part of the business, it’s the reason why we earn so much money and we are able to give our families and our friends a better life so we don’t complain about the criticism, it’s for the good and for the bad. It’s our job, it’s the way that people live the game, it’s the passion.

“He felt emotional when he missed a penalty. I think that’s totally acceptable because sometimes you react in ways that you don’t expect. He wanted to help the team and he felt that he could have done better in that moment. In my opinion it’s a very good penalty and a great save from Oblak. And then he cries for a bit, which is how humans deal with emotions sometimes, so I don’t see any reason for people to discuss about it.”

Another question arising from the Slovenia encounter was whetherRonaldo would continue to take the team’s freekicks after a less-than-impressive recent record on them. Asked if he knew who would take tomorrow’s freekicks, Silva laughed and said: “I’m not going to say that, first because I don’t know yet and then because even if I knew I wouldn’t tell you!”

What did Roberto Martínez say?

Portugal’s manager has also come in for criticism over the course of the competition, but said it is all part of the job.

“In the qualifying stages we won 10 matches and I was criticised. It’s part of the job description.

“Criticism shows how passionate people are about the national team, and I accept that. But I also believe we have very important players and a very competitive dressing room. My job is to have our players to perform as best they can, and that’s what I promise to the fans.”

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Reflecting on his team’s performances so far, he said: “I don’t agree that this team doesn’t take chances, that they don’t have a lot of character on the ball.

“There’s a lot of stats that shows our team is getting there, that we take risks and we want to use the players’ talent to win games. But it’s true, we need to score the chances that we get.”

“In terms of being predictable, everyone knows how great teams play. The important thing is execution – the talent of our players. I think we’re fully ready. These are the quarter-finals and we’re fully focused. We’re critical of ourselves, we always want to improve, but we don’t have to change everything from game to game.”

“Games are very competitive here. It’s hard to score the first goal. I think we run a lot of risks. To score, you need to get into the last third, but we have possession and a lot of players in position. We are doing a lot of things well and we need to keep on doing that, but there are things we can improve.”

He was also asked about both his own and the national team’s experience against France – who they of course beat in the 2016 European Championships before Martínez’s tenure.

“It’s always easier when you have experience than when you don’t but tomorrow it’s all about the players. We’re going to have our players enjoy the game. France is a great team, they have very good players, as we do. Every game is different, every tournament is different, but I think experience definitely helps.

“As national team coach, this is a key moment. It’s a chance to create everlasting memories. Winning the EURO in 2016 is a memory – it shouldn’t be compared with another generation. This generation has been on another path. I hope the current generation can motivate other generations in the future.”

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One reporter asked him who could be tomorrow’s ‘Eder’ – the player who scored the 2016 final’s winning goal. Martínez said he felt any of his 23 outfielders were ready to make the difference, and went on to say all players are ready and fit despite their extra-time ordeal on Monday night.

Moving on to tomorrow’s opponents, he joined Silva in agreeing tomorrow’s match is not a ‘mano a mano’ between the two captains.

“These are two amazing players. These players have made their mark in world sports – Cristiano has influenced Mbappé and Mbappé influences other players and other generations. But tomorrow the team needs to have the highest performance, the highest level, in order to win the match.

“France is not just Mbappé. There’s a lot of players that can play in space and we need to limit that, that’s a very strong suit in their game. They know how to open space and then counter very fast – Kylian, Dembélé, Thuram, a lot of players can use that space. We need to have a performance. We need to control the game, we need to avoid their quick counters, and we need to defend in our box. But there’s no specific plan for a specific player because they’re chock-full of amazing players.”

See what Didier Deschamps and Kylian Mbappé had to say ahead of tomorrow’s match, and follow our continued coverage of EURO2024, here and on our X account.