Portugal coach Fernando Santos leaves role after World Cup exit

The 68-year-old, who guided his nation to their first major title at Euro 2016, made the bold call to bench captain Cristiano Ronaldo twice in Qatar this month

Alex Pattle
Thursday 15 December 2022 19:13 GMT
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Fernando Santos has stepped down as Portugal coach following the team’s quarter-final exit at the Qatar World Cup.

Portugal were beaten by underdogs Morocco in the last eight to extend their wait for a first world title for at least another four years.

Santos took on the role of Portugal coach in 2014 and guided his nation to their first major trophy with a triumph at Euro 2016. Portugal were then title winners during the inaugural edition of the Nations League in 2019.

Santos, 68, made the bold call to drop captain Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench this month in Portugal’s last-16 win over Switzerland and subsequent loss to Morocco.

Against Switzerland, 37-year-old Ronaldo’s replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 rout. However, Ramos, 21, could not replicate that success against Morocco, nor could any Portuguese player find the net as they fell to a shock 1-0 loss.

Santos later said he did not regret the decision to bench Ronaldo in the defeat by Morocco, who went on to lose to defending champions France in the semi-finals.

“The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) and Fernando Santos have agreed to end the highly successful journey that began in September 2014,” read an official statement from the FPF on Thursday (15 December).

“After one of the best performances ever by the National Team in the final stages of the World Championship, in Qatar, FPF and Fernando Santos understand that this is the right moment to start a new cycle.

“In addition to the titles won, Fernando Santos became the coach with the most games and most victories [in the team’s history]. It was an honour to have a coach and a person like Fernando Santos at the head of the National Team. The FPF thanks Fernando Santos and his technical team for the services provided over eight unique years and believes that this thanks is also made on behalf of the Portuguese people.

“The FPF Board will now begin the process of choosing the next national coach.”

Fernando Santos (left) made the bold call to bench captain Cristiano Ronaldo twice at the Qatar World Cup (Mike Egerton/PA)

Prior to becoming Portugal coach after the 2014 World Cup, Santos had spells as manager of the Greek national team and Portuguese clubs Sporting CP, Benfica and Porto.

Santos’ Portugal won Euro 2016 in France, beating the hosts in the final, after winning just one match in normal time.

Portugal finished third in their group with three draws but advanced to the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams, at the first edition of the tournament to involve 24 nations. They then beat Croatia in extra time, Poland on penalties, Wales in normal time, and France 1-0 in extra time.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Portugal exited in the last 16 with a 2-1 defeat by Uruguay. One year later, Portugal were Nations League champions on home turf in Porto, defeating Netherlands 1-0.

Santos’ Portugal exit follows that of Brazil coach Tite and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez this week. Brazil, tournament favourites in Qatar, were eliminated in the quarter-finals, losing a penalty shootout to Croatia. Meanwhile, Belgium were knocked out in the group stage.

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