Portugal not affected by criticism, says Renato Sanches after reaching Euro 2016 semis

He says players remain confident despite the fact they have yet to win a game inside 90 minutes on their way to the last four.

Renato Sanches says Portugal will play like they usually do without being affected by criticism. Alex Livesey / Getty Images
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Renato Sanches insists any criticism of Portugal has no effect on the players as they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 after a penalty shootout victory over Poland.

Robert Lewandowski had given Poland an early lead with the second-fastest goal in the history of the competition but 18-year-old Sanches levelled with his first senior international strike.

The 1-1 draw was a largely drab affair but both sides produced in the penalty shoot-out, only for Jakob Blaszczykowski to see his effort saved with Portugal advancing courtesy of a 5-3 success as substitute Ricardo Quaresma struck the winning penalty.

Sanches tucked away Portugal’s second spot-kick after captain Cristiano Ronaldo made up for a frustrating evening by scoring the opener.

And he said the players remain confident despite the fact they have yet to win a game inside 90 minutes on their way to the last four, where they will meet either Wales or Belgium.

“It is a wonderful moment for the team, for me for scoring,” he said. “We have been working very hard and we have been doing our best. People criticise us but we don’t care, because we are in the semis.

“We conceded very early but we believed until the end, we tried our best. The move for the goal turned out that way, but the team has been playing well, we are very confident so we will keep on trying to play our best.”

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Having signed for Bayern Munich before the tournament, Sanches has impressed in substitute appearances but was unleashed from the start and did not disappoint.

His deflected equaliser brought Fernando Santos’ side level and his confident demeanour meant he was more than happy to face up to taking a penalty during the shoot-out.

“For the penalties, the coach asked who wanted to shoot,” he added.

“Cristiano was first and I said I would be second. The coach had faith in me, and I was confident enough to ask to shoot.

“I was just thinking about scoring, I was very cool, very collected, did what I always do and picked a side and put it in there.”

Poland had started so well as Lewandowski swept them in front with only 100 seconds on the clock.

But, having scored all five of their penalties to overcome Hungary in the round of 16, it was Blaszczykowski who saw his effort saved by Rui Patricio.

Despite their exit, manager Adam Nawalka is hoping a strong showing for much of the campaign can lead to bigger and better things for Poland.

“I think that the fans’ expectations are our motivation to play better and better. We feel their support,” he said. “We feel that we can bring them a lot of joy. I hope we continue to do so. Hopefully these championships prove to be the beginning of a wonderful era for Polish football but we’re going to stay cool.

“We know that our opponents will play differently against us now and if we want to play a major role in international football, we will have to be prepared.”


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