Portugal coach Santos impresses Singapore's Sablon
Portugal coach's winning formula - emphasising efficiency over entertainment
- After extra time
Can you take us through the tactical decisions made by Fernando Santos after Cristiano Ronaldo had to come off with a knee injury in the 25th minute?
SABLON: Portugal started with a 4-4-2 system with two forwards Ronaldo and Luis Nani.
There was no way anyone could have predicted Ronaldo would go off, but Santos was prepared.
In situations where a team's most influential player is suddenly taken out, the coach has to be professional, proactive and creative to deal with it.
And that's what Santos did. He did not replace Ronaldo with another striker.
Instead, he changed the system to a 4-5-1. He brought on Ricardo Quaresma, closed his team and prevented France from exploiting the space which they were doing at the start.
When he sensed that a strong physical presence in attack could trouble the French defence towards the end of the game, he sent on Eder for Renato Sanches and got the winning goal in extra time.
It showed that Santos was very prepared for every scenario, and he managed to get his players to respond positively.
He successfully reshuffled his team to rely on organisation instead of the attacking football they are capable of.
Unlike some other coaches, he learned as the tournament went on.
For example, Portugal played a very open game against Hungary, conceded three goals and were nearly eliminated.
Santos realised his team could not play this way and made the necessary changes in the knockout stages.
It wasn't pretty to watch, but it was effective.
Was the loss of Ronaldo actually a blessing in disguise for Portugal?
Yes, the injury and substitution played a big part in changing the complexion of the game.
The Portuguese seemed more motivated to work harder for their injured captain and also to cover for each other, while the French looked like they didn't know what to do without Ronaldo facing them.
While Santos deserves praise for his tactical masterstrokes, could Didier Deschamps have done better? Could Paul Pogba have been pushed to a more advanced role by fielding N'Golo Kante instead of Moussa Sissoko?
I don't think Deschamps could have done much more.
He made the enforced changes to bring in Samuel Umtiti and Sissoko for the suspended Adil Rami and N'Golo against Iceland in the quarter-finals.
They did well to win that game and beat Germany in the semi-finals, so it was within reason for him to stick to the same winning team.
I don't think there's any way to predict that Antoine Griezmann would miss his chances after scoring six in six previous games, that Olivier Giroud and Dimitri Payet would be quiet, or the impact substitute Kingsley Coman or Anthony Martial could have had on the game.
It was not that France were outplayed by Portugal.
They created quite a few chances to win, but just couldn't convert them. It could be the pressure and weight of expectations, but it just wasn't their night.
Is this be the dawn of a new era for Portugal?
It is possible, but they have just a handful of players in their 20s.
What is more likely is the start of a new period of effective and efficient football.
This European Championship has been a good example for coaches, as we saw teams that play an open game suffer.
The teams that did well were those with excellent organisation - players who knew what to do with and without the ball - and strong team spirit and mentality.
I wouldn't say that it is especially boring to watch, it is just a more structured way of playing where efficiency is valued more than entertainment.
It is still important to teach young footballers to play freely at junior levels but, once they become professional, they have to be able to adapt to different systems of play because, at senior level, results matter most.
- Michel Sablon, the Football Association of Singapore's technical director, was talking to David Lee. The 68-year-old former Belgian FA technical director is credited for developing the blueprint that produced Belgium's current golden generation of footballers.