Barely a word was heard on Portugal’s flight from Munich to Budapest after the reigning European champions were torn apart 4-2 by Germany on Saturday. “There was frustration and sadness. I don’t even know if anyone spoke on our way back,” said head coach Fernando Santos.
It was not just the humiliating defeat, but the reality check for a team whose level of confidence going into a major tournament had never been so high. For the first time, the Selecao were viewed as strong contenders rather than dark horses. The hype had escalated to such a point that the whole debate in the country revolved around whether this was the best Portuguese side of all time.
In terms of results, following the Euro 2016 and 2019 Nations League trophies, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt about that – not even the usually pragmatic Santos disagrees. It will all have been useless, though, if Cristiano Ronaldo and co fail to secure a point against France on Wednesday in a match that has more at stake than booking a place in the knockout stages.