Portugal manager Fernando Santos leapt to Cristiano Ronaldo’s defence as he lamented the “unfair result” which left his players in tears.
The reigning champions fell to a 1-0 defeat by Belgium on Sunday night which eliminated them from Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage, ending their defence of their crown.
Thorgan Hazard’s brilliant goal towards the end of the first half was the difference in Seville, although Portugal had the lion’s share of possession and outshot their opponents by 23 efforts to six.
It was a frustrating night for Ronaldo in what what was likely his final European Championship appearance, but Santos insisted he could not fault the 36-year-old’s performance.
“Ronaldo scored five goals in the tournament,” said the Portugal boss. “He didn’t score today but he was a true captain in every sense of the word.
“He tried to turn the game around. There’s no issue with Ronaldo.”
Hazard’s goal came from Belgium’s only shot on target and Santos declared the result was not a fair reflection of the match.
He added: “I think it is unfair but this is football. If you score you win – they scored, we didn’t.
“But apart form the first 10 minutes when we didn’t play that well, my players played with a strong mentality and tried to attack.
“We wanted the ball. We had 29 shots and couldn’t score one. They had six shots and one on target and they won.
“We hit the post and carried on being dangerous but the ball wouldn’t go in.
“We kept our heads up and kept thinking we could turn things but this is football. Sometimes we have had fewer chances and won.
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“We are very disappointed. We thought we could reach the final and win – that was our attitude.
“Some of the lads are crying in the changing room but we can still win more titles and now we are looking forward to the World Cup.”
While Santos described the result as “unfair”, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez claimed the hard-fought victory was testament to his side’s resilience.
“We showed incredible concentration and defended really well,” said the former Everton manager. “We controlled the game and defended well when we had to.
“We scored a very good goal and then in the second half, as you would expect, the momentum went to Portugal more.
“We had to show an incredible mentality. Everything was about those aspects of being tactically disciplined and very, very astute.
“If we had used the final ball and our possession better, we would probably have had a lot of joy from those risks that Portugal took.”
Belgium face Italy in the quarter-finals at the Allianz Arena on Friday night.