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Just not good enough

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Portugal lost to Serbia in their recent World Cup qualifier as they failed to qualify directly for the 2022 edition of the tournament. As claims that Frenando Santos is failing this squad as a manager by the critics similar to those directed at Roberto Martinez and his Belgium side. 


Pictures of Ronaldo clearly being miffed with the national team coach Fernando Santos went viral. Fernando Santos who after winning the Euro 2016 has failed to build up on that win, which is especially disappointing as he now arguably has a better squad and pool of players to pick from. Many pundits have even hailed this new wave of players entering the national team setup as Portugal’s new golden generation.

Players like Joao Felix, Diogo Jota, Bernado Silva , Ruben Neves, Ruben Dias, Nuno Mendes, Francisco Trincao, Joao Cancelo and many more have become mainstays in the Portuguese national team since 2016. The average of these players is around 24 and the potential of some is limitless! Thus calling them a golden generation is completely accurate.


Fernando Santos is set to join a long list of managers that have failed to get the best out of golden generations at the international level. One other name immediately springs to mind in regards to that of Roberto Martinez. 

Santos and Martinez are two current managers failing their national team’s golden generation. Essentially they are two different sides of the same coin. Limited managers that have been handed a squad of players with unlimited potential. 




Belgium possesses the most talked about golden generation of the last decade. World class players like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany and Thibaut Cortouis to name a few have represented the Red Devils at international level over the last decade. 


Only Kompany has retired from the above mentioned names but possessing one of the most gifted national squads the world has ever seen Martinez has failed to extract the best out of them. 


The Spaniard was appointed in August 2016 after Marc Wilmots was seen as a limited manager as a disappointing Euro 2016 came to an end. Although Wilmots did bring this golden generation together and is often not credited for it.

Martinez got the squad at their peak and managed to make them the number ranked team according to FIFA, but since 2016 has not been able to deliver silverware. In fact they have not even made a single final! Something Wilmots was also not able to do.


Not making a single final seems absurd,right? Especially with a squad possessing arguably the best players in almost every position.


Roberto Martinez in doubt will be seen as a failure and his teams will be referred to as ‘chokers’.

The reasons for his failure are actually quite simple in fact. The first being his tactics, which  have been very rigid. His 3 at the back formation does not really make sense anymore for Belgium’s squad as they no longer have the likes of Kompany , Alderweireld and Vertonghen to play those positions.  


The 3 former Premier League Centre backs were sublime for Belgium during the national team’s rise and are irreplaceable. Martinez has struggled to find an alternative for their quality and instead of adapting has stuck to the same old system. 


The second reason being an ability to be ruthless and composed. When a team gets knocked out in the final 4 or 8 of tournaments constantly it becomes apparent that the coach is failing to help them cross a mental hurdle that needs to be vaulted in order to win a title. That is the exact case for Martinez with this Belgium side. 

During the 2018 World Cup it seemed they had seemingly passed that hurdle as a thrilling round of 16 match against Japan was won by the Red Devils. They showed an amazing fighting spirit in that match that was not there before and unfortunately has not been seen since. They failed to make it to the semis as eventual champions France managed to knock them out in the subsequent round. 


Martinez is set to leave his post after the 2022 World Cup which will definitely be his last chance to make sure this Belgium golden generation has an international trophy to their name but we at FootTheBall do not think that is going to happen. Luckily whoever comes after Roberto will have another golden generation on their hands and hopefully they will do a better job than him.




Fernando Santos is a very limited manager and much like most Portuguese managers is seen as being overly defensive at times. Despite making sure that Portugal win Euro 2016 and the Nations League they have failed to do so in a convincing manner. 

They lack the dominance a team with a golden generation should possess. Hardly being able to dominate the ball on the field itself. Something a squad of superstars should not really struggle with their ability to go toe-to-toe with the best in the world casts a large shadow on Santos and rightly so.


Even though he is more tactically flexible than Martinez on paper arguably he is a worse hands-on coach. He does seem to really lack the ability to improve his players with systematic adjustments. Something Lowe was highly praised for doing in the German national team set-up much like how Luis Enrique is doing now for La Roja.


Santos’ over-reliance on Ronaldo also seems to be becoming a problem. He more often than not is seen undermining the manager not wittingly but nonetheless it does not change the fact that Ronaldo’s expression does seem to pile the pressure on the manager something he himself should understand. 


Santos’ dependence on CR7 is not misplaced but it makes his team very one dimensional too which is detrimental especially if you have players that can perform close to Cristiano’s level. This more often than not results in defensive performances that are given added value due to Ronaldo’s match saving performances.





We hope Santos realizes that CR7 is a mere human after all and will eventually retire not to have plan B or C in a highly competitive space like international football just seems foolish.


Fernando should also figure out his own limitations and how to fix his team before it is too late and this Portuguese team is playing their last international tournament together, something Martinez has to deal with next year.    





Vidur Arora
A Swansea City fan, who fell in love with the game watching Joe Allen play. Usually found in the wild with headphones in his ears and bobbing his head. Love his art too.

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