Bernardo Silva: It’s natural that we play for Cristiano

 Bernardo Silva: It’s natural that we play for Cristiano
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In an interview with FIFA, the Portugal midfielder says he fully trusts the star man’s decision making. He backs boss Fernando Santos and talks about the dream of another unprecedented triumph.
  • Bernardo Silva will play his second World Cup with Portugal in Qatar

  • The midfielder assures that the country can always count on Cristiano Ronaldo

  • The Portuguese will face Uruguay, Ghana and Korea Republic in Group H

On 20 August 2003 Cristiano Ronaldo made his debut for Portugal, and he never looked back. Alongside him in that friendly against Kazakhstan were players such as Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Deco, all of whom the boy from Madeira would leave in the shade to become the greatest ever footballer for his country.

Almost 20 years have gone by since that summer day, and Ronaldo remains unwaveringly the team’s star man.

All eyes will again be on the captain when Portugal play their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ opener against Ghana, on 24 November. Ronaldo will still be the centre point around which the side is built. Having scored 117 goals in a Portugal shirt, he has more than earned his special status. In recent months, however, and for the first time, his role in the team has been brought into question.

Despite failing to find the net in his last nine matches for Portugal, Ronaldo still has the backing of his teammates, Bernardo Silva tells FIFA.

“The reality is when you’ve got a player like Cristiano, it’s natural that sometimes you play for him because he can win you the game in the final minutes,” says the Manchester City man.

“The same goes for other countries. It’s natural, for example, that France always look to [Kylian] Mbappe because he can decide a match at any time. Brazil have Neymar and with Argentina it’s Lionel Messi.

“When you have these kinds of players on your side, you have to take advantage of them, although I agree you can’t become overdependent on them as this can disrupt the team dynamics. But, if we get it right, having Cristiano in our team will be a powerful weapon,” he adds.

That is the hope for Portugal in what will be the veteran’s fifth World Cup. He has scored in all four of the previous tournaments he has taken part in (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018).

“Every coach has to adapt his style to the players available”

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City’s head coach, often says that Bernardo not only knows exactly what to do with the ball, but he truly understands the game. Reproducing the brilliant form he shows week in week out in the Premier League for Portugal is no easy task, however. There are no daily training sessions, of course, and each head coach has his own particular style.

“It’s a different kind of football (for the national team),” says the 28-year-old.

“Every coach has to adapt his style to the players he has. But obviously the work done at club level is different to the national team. At your club, you can work with your players every day all year round. For the national team, the players come from all over the place, with their teams playing different styles, and you have to all be on the same wavelength, which isn’t easy.

“For example, (Joao) Cancelo, Ruben (Dias) and I are at Manchester City who play one way. Cristiano, (Diogo) Dalot and Bruno (Fernandes) are at Manchester United who play differently. And it’s the same with the guys from Benfica, Porto, Sporting and Wolverhampton. It’s not an easy job getting everyone on the same page.”

Bernardo has no doubt that Fernando Santos, who has been leading Portugal since 2014, will have the confidence of the country going into another World Cup.

“He’s a coach who has enjoyed a lot of success with our team. He’s the only one who has won trophies for Portugal – the European Championship (in 2016) and the Nations League (in 2019). I believe the Portuguese are very happy with the job he’s doing. Recently we’ve gone through a rough patch but we’re working hard to rectify matters,” admits the No10.

“We all dream of becoming world champions”

After coming unstuck against Uruguay in the round of 16 in 2018, Bernardo wants to write a different story in Qatar and dreams of a celebratory homecoming after winning the trophy.

“Of course I think about it. It’s every kid’s dream. Winning the World Cup, the biggest competition in football, is obviously a dream we all share, but we’ll take it one game at a time because I think that’s the best way to win any championship, whether it’s for your club or your country.

“Our goal is to be champions, but we have to take it slowly, game by game. The focus is on our next training session, the match, recovery, training again, the next game and so on. Like that, we’ll get there.”

Portugal’s Group H games

Portugal-Ghana 24 November, 19:00 Doha time

Portugal-Uruguay 28 November, 22:00 Doha time

Korea Republic-Portugal 2 December, 18:00 Doha time

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Dahiana Camilo

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