Portugal were annulled at the last minute against Serbia, meaning their place in next year’s World Cup is in jeopardy as Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates are accused of “fear”
Portuguese coach Fernando Santos singled out Bernardo Silva for praise, but argued Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of his teammates played with “fear and anxiety” when they lost to Serbia.
The champions of Euro 2016 were defeated in the last minute when Aleksandar Mitrović achieved the winner in Lisbon.
Serbia is advancing as a group winner, leaving Ronaldo to sweat whether to play in a record fifth World Cup.
Renato Sanches gave Portugal the lead before the Serbs reversed the match.
After the reversal, Santos claimed his side had strayed from their “DNA” and he seemed to resent the lack of courage of his players – including Ronaldo.
He said, “It looked like it was going to be, but it wasn’t. We scored, we had the starting moments. Then we started to fall sharply.
“The players tried. But then we didn’t turn on the game. Every time we did, we created problems. But most of the time we couldn’t.
“Serbia was better. We tried. Our DNA is to have the ball on our feet and play. Bernardo Silva wanted the ball, but he was the only one. We played with fear and anxiety. It’s my responsibility.”
Since winning Euro 2016 in France, Portugal have been knocked out of the 2018 World Cup in the last 16.
Belgium then beat them at this year’s Euro summer, also in the final 16th stage.
Nonetheless, Santos is determined to have his country in the Middle East next year, having qualified for every World Cup since 2002.
The Portuguese coach added: “We will be in Qatar. We know we didn’t do what we should have, but we will be there.
“We always played to win and thought about the offensive moment. However, it does not always turn out the way we want. And that is my responsibility. “
Bernardo apologized to the fans after his country lost to Estadio da Luz in the worst moments.
He said: “It was awful, we have to do a lot better as we have the final in March and we will do our best to qualify. At home, with 65,000 fans, we had to go much better.”
“I apologize to the Portuguese (fans) who watched the match, which they should not watch. The plan was to try to have the ball, we were completely controlled by Serbia. With the quality of our players, this is hardly permissible.”