Cristiano Ronaldo leads angered Portugal players against the critical press gang

Resentment at media criticism helps inspire Bento's side to the brink of semi-final place

Opalenica

On Sunday night in Kharkiv, Portugal finally dazzled as their nation expects, with Cristiano Ronaldo to the fore in an impressive 2-1 win over the Netherlands. Still, the Portuguese media who made the 1,000 mile trip east from the team's headquarters here were a touch miffed to see the squad walk straight through the after-match mix zone without so much as a word.

"All of us have our own free will," said Chelsea's Raul Meireles by way of explanation, back at the squad's Polish base ahead of today's quarter-final against the Czech Republic in Warsaw. "If we have an understanding to not speak after the game, the Portuguese [people and media] have to respect that, just as we respect all the criticisms that have come up, good and bad."

The message was clear: with the upturn in form, power now rests with the players. They expressed that by failing to fulfil any more than the mandatory pitchside television interviews. It is a culmination of tension that has been simmering since before the team's departure from their pre-Euro camp in the Portuguese coastal town of Obidos and their disappointing friendly results last month.

In the first few days in Opalenica, the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) vice-president Humberto Coelho and director of football, Joao Pinto, gave a press conference to respond to criticisms of the national set-up that had been voiced by veteran coach Manuel José (who called it a "circus") and former national coach Carlos Queiroz. Coelho defended the FPF, which has been under pressure since January over claims that Portugal's hotel bill in Poland would be the largest of any of the 16 finalists at over £24,000 a night – an estimate recently proven to be four times in excess of the actual figure, which Coelho said was paid by Uefa bonuses, not taxpayers.

The squad have used this as motivation. The coach Paulo Bento and the forward Nani have talked of "typical" Portuguese reactions, when discussing critics of Ronaldo and the squad in general in the last week.

It may be the oldest trick in the amateur psychologist's book, but it's working a treat. An "us against the world" atmosphere has enhanced the bond between the players and the coaching staff, something Meireles compared with his club's efforts in digging in amidst adversity to snare the ultimate club prize last season.

"Nobody regarded us as favourites [before the Euros]," he said, "just as nobody regarded Chelsea as favourites in the Champions League. It's our dream, just as it's the dream of all Portuguese people, even if it will be difficult."

Portugal's displays have begun to lessen scepticism back home. Even the performance in the opening defeat by Germany was encouraging. Many in the squad believe their widely lampooned efforts in failing to beat Macedonia and Turkey in friendlies were born of necessary fine-tuning.

As the Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho put it at the first press conference in Poland: "They were just preparation games. We improved from one to the other and it's all about being in the best possible condition for the first match."

Ronaldo's story is the team's in microcosm. Attention paid to his misses against Denmark masked a decent performance, certainly in the first half, and his goals against the Netherlands were the inevitable end of a rare bad run. He will fancy his chances against a fallible Czech defence, as he did when scoring in a 3-1 group-stage win in 2008.

If Ronaldo succeeds again, any continuation of the lockdown will seem entirely justified.

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor