In an intense and crazy match in Paris, Portugal beat France 1-0 in overtime and became the new European Champions for the first time in their history.
And they did that, thanks to their manager’s, impressive tactical approach and man-management skills.
Before the start of the Euro 2016, there weren’t many people who would refer to Portugal as a true title contender.
With Cristiano Ronaldo not being at his very best, the team were considered an underdog, which would try to shock the world and make the surprise.
Apart from the 31-year-old superstar, there weren’t many other players that could make the difference for the squad, as Santos had picked players that were either inexperienced or not at the top-level.
Players like Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Ricardo Carvalho had seen their careers in free fall for the past two or three years, while others, like Renato Sanches, Jose Fonte and Cedric Soares, were certainly inexperienced.
During the group stage, the Portuguese were playing mediocre, especially offensively, but managed to secure their qualification to the next round, although they didn’t earn a single victory (three draws).
In the knock-out matches something changed. Portugal became much better defensively, due to Santos’ tactical plan, while the duo of Nani and Ronaldo was a genuine threat for any team’s defensive line.
In the meantime, William Carvalho, Fonte, Pepe and Soares were solid and consistent defensively, as the 61-year-old manager’s tactical approach was proved very effective.
Consequently, the side eliminated Croatia and Poland in overtime and penalty shootout, respectively, and went on to beat Wales 2-0 and qualify to the Final.
Against France on Sunday night, Santos saw Ronaldo leave the game after just 23 minutes, due to injury, but had no problem to stick to his plan and eventually win the title.
Although the French team played better and created many chances, Portugal stood tall, remained solid and Eder’s goal, after 109 minutes, let them claim the coveted title.
During the tournament, the Portuguese coach made his squad play more aggressively, with Adelino Vieirinha and Raphael Guerreiro as the right and left back, respectively, however the 3-3 draw against Hungary in the group stage helped him change his plan.
The aforementioned match against the Hungarians was a game changer for Santos, who decided to focus more on avoiding conceding a goal than creating many chances to score.
Consequently, Renato Sanches, Joao Mario and William Carvalho had a central role on the side’s tactical plan, while Nani, Ronaldo and Quaresma managed to offer decent solutions, by scoring crucial goals and dishing assists to their team-mates.
Although they didn’t make decent performances in almost all of their matches, the Portuguese didn’t change their plan, took calculated risks and became European champions.
And, as we said above, this happened due to Santos’ presence, with the Portuguese manager convincing the entire roster to play for one another and not for themselves, which was Portugal’s key element in their effort to win the trophy.
Above all, though, Santos had to make his players believe in themselves, as the national team had suffered many painful defeats in the past 20 years, with the most painful one being against Greece in the Final of the 2004 European Championship in Lisbon.
So, he did exactly that and, although the team was very lucky in some of their games, Santos proved he had the perfect tactical plan and man-management skills to lead the team to the top and that’s why he deserves that title more than anybody else in Portugal’s roster.