Football: Former Portugal boss Fernando Santos named Poland coach

New Poland head coach Fernando Santos (left) with Polish football federation president Cezary Kulesza in Warsaw on Jan 24, 2023. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WARSAW - Fernando Santos, who was the Portuguese national football team’s manager until December, on Tuesday pledged his allegiance to Poland after he was named as the side’s new coach.

“From today, I am Polish. I am one of you,” the 68-year-old declared at the official ceremony in Warsaw.

“It is an honour to continue my work as a trainer here,” Santos also told journalists at the press conference called to announce the nomination.

“I am convinced that we will work hard to give the Poles a lot of joy. I am sure that we will achieve success.”

The Portuguese succeeds Czeslaw Michniewicz, who was sacked in December following a last-16 elimination at the World Cup in Qatar.

Poland finished second in their group, beating Saudi Arabia, drawing with Mexico and losing to eventual champions Argentina.

In the last 16 for the first time in 36 years, they went out after a tame 3-1 defeat at the hands of eventual runners-up France.

Lisbon-born Santos quit as Portugal coach following the team’s shock World Cup quarter-final loss to Morocco.

Appointed coach of Portugal in September 2014, he won the country’s first major title at Euro 2016 and followed it up with the 2019 Nations League.

However, his time in charge also saw last-16 exits at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.

Santos also coached the Greece national team from 2010 to 2014.

“The choice was difficult but we have chosen the best,” said Cezary Kulesza, head of the Polish football federation.

“Our first objective is to qualify for the European Championship which will take place in Germany in 2024,” he added.

When he first revealed the new coach’s name, Kulesza misspoke, calling him “Felipe” instead of Fernando, drawing ridicule from local media.

Before Santos was appointed, former Portugal and South Korea coach Paulo Bento and ex-Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard were both linked to the job, but Santos’ vast experience could have made the difference.

In one of his first interviews to Polish media, Santos told the Interia news site that his primary focus was on winning.

“Football is not a painting nor... Chopin’s music. It is much more simple: if you don’t concede goals and you score, then you win. That’s all,” he said.

He also said he planned to move to Warsaw and get to know the team.

“I don’t want to be the guy that you see only during the matches and on the special occasions,” he said.

“I want to get to know the people of Polish football and I want them to get to know me.” AFP

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