Santos: Ronaldo not weighed down by Portugal pressure
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Cristiano Ronaldo made World Cup history with his goal against Ghana
Cristiano Ronaldo made World Cup history with his goal against Ghana

Cristiano Ronaldo has the personality to handle any pressure that comes with being Portugal's leading man, says Fernando Santos.

Ronaldo, the record goalscorer in the history of international football, came into the World Cup with his future uncertain, after an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan.

The 37-year-old has since left Manchester United and is playing as a free agent for the first time in his career.

Ronaldo scored Portugal's opener in their 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday, becoming the first male player to score at five separate World Cup finals in the process.

And Santos shrugged off the suggestion Portugal place too much pressure on their captain's shoulders.

"We have players that are more visible than others and they need to deal with that, with the high priority and pressure," Santos said in a press conference ahead of Portugal's second Group H game against Uruguay.

"They express themselves in one particular way. There are players who are more extroverted, those more introverted, the most important thing is they play as a group, play together as one team.

"As far as Cristiano is concerned, I've known him for many years, since he was 19, we have other players that share the same personality.

"Little by little he has gained more experience, and understands this pressure, but we also take into account other players, not only Cristiano Ronaldo."

Another experienced campaigner in Santos' squad is Ronaldo's former Real Madrid club-mate Pepe, with the 39-year-old centre-back potentially in line to feature against Uruguay after Danilo suffered an injury to his ribs in the win over Ghana.

"He's a monster, Pepe is a monster," Santos said of the defender. "Someone who has a huge role, there's no doubt."

Ronaldo started with Joao Felix in a front two against Ghana, though Santos also has Milan star Rafael Leao, who scored with his first touch after coming on a substitute, to call on.

Asked if he would consider starting the trio together, Santos replied: "Of course it's possible, we did not come here with labels of one, two or three starters.

"We will line them up according to our needs, I'm serious about it. We have choices, and no player will be excluded, but we should not address this with an individual perspective, but as a collective.

"That's what we did against Ghana. In the first half we played very well, Ghana could not enter our area. In the last 30 minutes we should have been more aggressive because I know my players are capable. We were perhaps overconfident, but we can be confident if we are more aggressive.

"Our advantage is that we have a plethora of players that we can use. Our players are free to play, the only thing that I ask them is to follow my instructions. We will not hold our players on a tight leash – we let them free."

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