Andre Silva: I’m lost for words
Fernando Santos earmarked Portugal’s trip to the Faroe Islands as a potential banana skin. Yet after just 37 minutes of the sides’ third 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier, the reigning European champions were 3-0 up.
Only one name was on the score-sheet, but surprisingly it wasn’t that of Cristiano Ronaldo. Andre Silva, 20, had netted what team-mate Joao Mario later called a “quintessential striker’s hat-trick”, which set Portugal en route to an emphatic 6-0 victory.
“I’m lost for words,” said the Porto player, who was overlooked for UEFA EURO 2016. “I wanted to score a goal, but I was not even thinking about a hat-trick. It’s the realisation of a dream. I’m very happy with the hat-trick, but I’m even happier that we’ve taken all three points home.”
The result left Portugal second in Group B, three points behind Switzerland but boasting a vastly superior goal difference (+10 to +4). Afterwards, Santos refused to single out individual performances.
“It’s not about individuals – it’s about teamwork,” insisted the 62-year-old former defender. “Players stand out when the team plays well. When this is the case, the players – even the younger ones – can grow.
Portugal, who are the third-highest Europeans on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking behind Belgium and Germany, play their final Russia 2018 qualifier of the year at home to Latvia next month.
“The margin for error is not great, because we lost against Switzerland,” said Santos. “We need to win all our games.”
Portugal had surprisingly qualified for only two World Cups prior to 2002 – nine-goal Eusebio and Co thrilled en route to finishing third in 1966, while they suffered a disappointing campaign in 1986. The Iberians have, however, participated in the last four editions of the tournament.