Portugal must 'be together' to get best out of Joao Felix – Santos

By Sports Desk March 30, 2021

Joao Felix is not expected to be a combative player for Portugal, but Fernando Santos suggested the Atletico Madrid star must do more to stand out.

Portugal came from behind to beat Luxembourg 3-1 on Tuesday, moving top of World Cup qualifying Group A in the process.

Gerson Rodrigues scored his second goal in as many games to put Luxembourg ahead, but Diogo Jota, Cristiano Ronaldo and substitute Joao Palhinha sealed the points for Portugal.

Jota's equaliser – a header from inside the six-yard box – was teed up by the Liverpool forward's former Wolves team-mate Pedro Neto, who replaced Joao Felix in the 41st minute.

Making his first start of the qualifying campaign, Joao Felix appeared to be struggling with an injury to his right ankle, seemingly sustained when he had a shot blocked in Luxembourg's box.

It was the youngster's only attempt, while he also failed to create a chance and completed just 18 of 25 attempted passes.

Neto, on the other hand, ended the match with two assists, for Jota and Palhinha respectively, and it was a performance that drew the praise of Santos, who hinted that it is difficult to fit Joao Felix into a certain role in his team.

"Neto had different movement, another dynamic, he looked for depth, he went looking for the ball," Santos told reporters.

"He always participated in defensive actions. Joao always had more difficulty. He has his own way of playing, he is not a combative player, we are not expecting that either.

"He has a lot of technical quality, he has the quality to make a difference, but we all have to be together so that these things can work."

It is an issue that has also stymied Joao Felix's Atleti career to date, with the 21-year-old delivering some quality displays at the start of the campaign, but scoring just twice in LaLiga since the turn of the year.

Ronaldo's goal was his 103rd for Portugal, taking the 36-year-old to within six strikes of Iran legend Ali Daei's record, while he has also scored in every calendar year since making his international debut in 2004.

The Juventus star squandered two gilt-edged chances to double his tally at 2-1, in what was a rather laboured performance from the reigning European champions, and Santos acknowledged he has to strike a balance between playing to the strengths of the attacking talent he has available, while also remaining organised.

"Technical quality alone doesn't win here, if we don't balance these important factors," he added. 

"It's not that the players don't want to. We had difficulties. But then there was an instant reaction, we scored in an important moment.

"The second half was [better]. The goals appeared and we could have scored more. We had opportunities."

Related items

  • Ivory Coast 0-0 Egypt (aet, 4-5 pens): Bailly miss lets Salah seal progress Ivory Coast 0-0 Egypt (aet, 4-5 pens): Bailly miss lets Salah seal progress

    Eric Bailly missed from the spot as Egypt progressed to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations by knocking out Ivory Coast on penalties.

    The most frequently contested match in the tournament's history – this was the 11th time these sides have met – was decided when Mohamed Salah swept home to secure a 5-4 win in the shoot-out after 120 goalless minutes in Douala.

    In a tight first 90 minutes of few chances, arguably the best fell to Amr El Soleya, who blasted over after being teed up in space by Salah.

    Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy tipped over a Sebastien Haller header before keeping out a Wilfried Zaha effort, but he was replaced with two minutes of normal time left due to injury.

    A bright start from Egypt to extra time saw El Soleya presented with another chance, the Al Ahly midfielder unable to keep his awkward header down from six yards out.

    A speculative Ibrahim Sangare strike was well saved by Mohamed Abou Gabal, and Simon Deli got in front of the replacement goalkeeper from the resulting corner only to head over.

    Salah's cut-back set up Trezeguet with practically the final kick of extra time, but the Aston Villa man shot straight at Badra Ali Sangare from six yards.

    The opening four penalties of the shoot-out were scored before 'Gabaski' clawed Bailly's effort onto the crossbar, the Manchester United defender's run-up not fooling the keeper.

    Zaha swept home to put the pressure on Salah, who found the bottom-right corner to set up a last-eight meeting with Morocco.

  • Infantino says Africa comments 'were taken out of context' Infantino says Africa comments 'were taken out of context'

    FIFA president Gianni Infantino said  his comments suggesting biennial World Cups could convince African people not to risk "death" by crossing the Mediterranean Sea were "taken out of context".

    Infantino was addressing the European Council on Wednesday, speaking about a range of topics including football agents, Qatar 2022 and FIFA's proposals for World Cup finals every two years.

    He concluded his speech by talking about the latter, outlining how FIFA's reasoning behind the controversial idea – which is being pushed by Arsene Wenger – comes down to a desire to let more people around the world enjoy the best players for "the future of football".

    Infantino said: "We see that football is going to a direction where the few have everything and the vast majority have nothing. I understand.

    "In Europe, the World Cup happens twice per week because the best players are playing in Europe. In Europe there's no need for additional events, but if we think about the rest of the world, and even in Europe, the vast majority of Europe that doesn't see the best players, that doesn't participate in the top competitions."

    But, as he went on to explain ethical dilemmas currently troubling the sport, Infantino's address took a curious turn, suggesting the proposed World Cup changes – and greater inclusion in global football – could make refugees think twice about fleeing Africa for Europe.

    He added: "We have to think about what football brings, which goes beyond the sport, because football is about what I was saying at the beginning – it's about opportunities, about hope, about national teams, the country, heart, the joy and emotion. You cannot say to the rest of the world, 'give us your money and if you happen to have a good player, give us the player as well, but you just watch on TV'. We need to include them. We need to find ways to include the entire world, to give hope to Africans so they don't have to cross the Mediterranean in order to, maybe, find a better life but more probably death in the sea.

    "We need to give opportunities and we need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate. Maybe a World Cup every two years isn't the answer, [but] we discuss it, debate it."

    Several hours later, the Swiss – via a statement released on FIFA's Twitter account – took the opportunity to clarify his comments.

    The statement read: "Given that certain remarks made by me before the Council of Europe earlier today appear to have been misinterpreted and taken out of context, I wish to clarify that, in my speech, my more general message was that everyone in a decision-making position has a responsibility to help improve the situation of people around the world.

    "If there are more opportunities available, including in Africa, but certainly not limited to that continent, this should allow people to take these opportunities in their own countries.

    "This was a general comment, which was not directly related to the possibility of playing a FIFA World Cup every two years."

  • Wolves confirm Hwang Hee-chan to join the club permanently Wolves confirm Hwang Hee-chan to join the club permanently

    South Korea international Hwang Hee-chan will join Wolves permanently at the end of the season, the Premier League club has confirmed.

    Hwang initially joined on a season-long loan from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig and agreed personal terms on a deal before arriving in England.

    Wolves have now activated a clause to make the move permanent from July for a fee reportedly in the region of £12million.

    The deal will run to 2026 and was confirmed by the club's website on the player's 26th birthday.

    The former Salzburg forward made an impactful start at Wolves, scoring four goals in his first six Premier League games, including his first strike just 20 minutes into his debut after coming off the bench in the 2-0 win at Watford in September.

    He has failed to find the net since scoring the opener in the 1-1 draw at Leeds United in October, however, and has not played since sustaining a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win at Brighton last month.

     

    Hwang first came to prominence at Salzburg during the 2019-20 season, playing in an attack that included Erling Haaland, Takumi Minamino and Patson Daka, before signing for RB Leipzig for around €9m in 2020.

    However, he only managed three goals and four assists in 29 appearances across all competitions for Die Roten Bullen – albeit only five of those were starts.

    Wolves technical director, Scott Sellars, was delighted to confirm the news and told the club's website: "He's had a really positive affect on not only the team, but also the whole football club, and he's been a fantastic addition to Wolves.

    "We could see straight from our first meeting with him that Hee-chan is such a focused and determined young man who wants to be successful in his football career.

    "He's not had the experiences he would have liked at Leipzig and he wanted a change, and he's grabbed his opportunity here in the Premier League with both hands. He's shown a lot of determination, a lot of focus and certainly a lot of professionalism every day, and he's got his rewards in terms of his performances and his goals."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.