Soccer-Dominating ball fundamental weapon against Germany, says Santos


Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Portugal Training - Football Arena Munich, Munich, Germany - June 18, 2021 Portugal coach Fernando Santos during training Pool via REUTERS/Matthias Hangst

MUNICH (Reuters) - Portugal coach Fernando Santos has urged his side to starve Germany of the ball as they target a second consecutive win in Euro 2020 in Saturday's blockbuster Group F game.

Portugal won the last European Championship playing a mostly defensive game in which they rarely dominated the ball but Santos believes their best hope of keeping Germany at bay is to limit their ability to play passes in behind.

The holders had a testing opening game with Hungary before eventually emerging 3-0 winners, while Germany were beaten 1-0 by world champions France.

"Germany are often able to surprise opponents with passes in behind from Toni Kroos, so a fundamental weapon is to have the ball and keep them as far away from the goal as possible," Santos told a news conference.

"They like to play lots of passes in behind but France deprived them of space in the final third with a fantastic performance. We want to have the ball and not lose it too often."

Germany hammered Portugal 4-0 the last time the two sides met in a major tournament at the 2014 World Cup but Santos believes his side have made huge strides since then.

"I think Portugal have became more respected lately. Other teams respected Portugal in the past, but deep down they believed they were stronger. Now no team in the world facing Portugal thinks they'll win easily," he said.

"On the other hand, this Germany side is fantastic, like a steamroller. I'm not afraid of Germany, but the two teams will respect each other, and thinking you're favourites against Germany is a very dangerous move."

After facing Hungary in a raucous, sold-out Puskas Arena, Portugal will again have to contend with a partisan crowd in Munich - although the Football Arena Munich will only be at 25% capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Santos said his side must try to keep a cool head in the partisan atmosphere.

"Being motivated to win and playing with your soul is very important but you also have to know how to win. If we only play with our hearts, we won't win," he added.

Defender Ruben Dias said the squad was in a good mood after their opening win but also aware they will have to up their game.

"We're facing a top level team now, one of the best in the tournament," he said.

"We're well aware that even though we've made a good start we need to keep our feet on the ground and remember we'll have to play even better to win this one."

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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