Soccer-Portugal must recover combative streak, says Pepe


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Portugal Training - Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary - June 14, 2021 Portugal's Pepe during training Pool via REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Portugal will have to recover their intensity and hunger to beat France in their final Euro 2020 group game after a disappointing 4-2 defeat by Germany, defender Pepe said on Tuesday.

"We need to be what we have always been, a very combative team which plays with solidarity," Pepe told a news conference ahead of the game in Budapest, a re-run of the Euro 2016 final which Portugal won 1-0 after extra time.

"After Germany we were very sad but we've thoroughly analysed our performance and we want to show what we're worth. The last match wasn't good, that's true, but tomorrow we have the chance to prove our doubters wrong and play at our best level."

Monday's results mean the holders only need to draw against France to clinch their place in the last 16 while they could even qualify with a defeat, just as long as Hungary do not beat Germany in the other Group F game.

Pepe is one of the few survivors of the team that won Euro 2016 with what many believe was an inferior squad but he said the current team needs to match its predecessor in work rate and desire.

"We need to play closer together, support each other, we've shown what Portugal is like we have many quality players but we also work so hard together which is very important and what led us to be so respected across Europe," he added.

"Whenever Germany got a corner against us they were really fired up and showed how much they wanted to beat us. We have to emulate that, we have to want it as much as Germany did to make it through.

"We need to stay calm take a deep breath. If we put all our quality out there, we have every chance of winning."

The defeat by Germany was the first time Portugal had conceded four times in 58 games under coach Fernando Santos and only the second time they had let in three goals.

"That was not the Portugal we all know," Santos said, adding his players were "sunk" after the game while feeling confident they would respond in the right way.

"We have experienced players and they don't always win. There are times when the top teams don't deal well with defeat but our players are used to reacting," he added.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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