SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Portugal coach Fernando Santos said he hoped Cristiano Ronaldo would continue with the national team, which he said shared the sadness of the Portuguese people after they crashed out of the World Cup with a 2-1 defeat by Uruguay.
Edinson Cavani struck a brace of brilliant goals in the last-16 tie, either side of a Pepe header, but despite having the lion’s share of possession, Portugal could not break down Uruguay’s well-drilled defense a second time.
“We know that in Portugal, the squares are full, the people are together and rooting for us and we feel their presence here, so a word to the Portuguese people - we are very sad that we weren’t able to make it,” he told reporters.
Santos said his side had studied their opponents but that it was impossible to legislate for Uruguay’s first goal, which featured a superb interaction between Luis Suarez and his strike partner Cavani.
“There was a cross to the left, then a cross to the right - there is no scheme against that. Their strikers were very strong; one was there, the other one came from behind. That was an incredible play, they have never scored like that before,” the 63-year-old said, ruefully.
The European champions equalized when Pepe headed home following a short corner, but Uruguay swept up the field and carved them open once more, with Cavani firing home his second and Portugal unable to respond.
“We know that they were tight in the midfield, so we had some players playing wide to try to unblock the Uruguay defense, In the first half we did it less well. In the second we were better, but we didn’t make it,” he explained.
Ultimately, Uruguay were able to tempt Portugal into taking shots from distance and then smother them, blocking eight of the 20 Portuguese efforts on goal.
Ronaldo showed flashes of his brilliance but was often restricted to foraging on the flanks or denied a clear shot at goal when he cut inside. But Santos still hopes to see the 33-year-old add to his 154 caps and 85 international goals.
“Certainly, yes, Cristiano still has a lot to give to football. There is a tournament in September, the UEFA (Nations League) and we hope he will be with us to help the younger ones to grow,” he told reporters.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor,; Editing by Neville Dalton