Portugal coach Fernando Santos retires after World Cup elimination in quarterfinals

Portuguese national coach Fernando Santos has resigned, the Portuguese Football Association announced on Thursday, after eight years in service and five days after Portugal’s exit from the World Cup in the quarter-finals.

Santos, 68, reached an amicable agreement with the federation to leave two years before his contract expires, a statement said.

The federation did not name a replacement for Santos and said it was beginning its search.

Santos guided Portugal to the 2016 European Championship title – the country’s first international trophy – and the inaugural UEFA Nations League title in 2019.

Portugal left Qatar on Saturday after a 1-0 defeat to Morocco in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

The Portuguese team had an enviable talent and won the first two games in the group stage. In the round of 16, it impressed by beating Switzerland 6-1.

But Portugal’s early departure from Qatar was widely regarded as an underperformance.

Whoever takes over faces a tricky question of how to manage Cristiano Ronaldo’s future role in the team.

The 37-year-old star, who has made five World Cup appearances in 16 years and is Portugal’s record goalscorer and best-ever player, was dropped from the starting line-up for the game against Switzerland as a new generation of Portuguese players made an emphatic mark.

Against Morocco he started again on the bench.

Those tactical options caused friction between Santos and his star player, who left the field in tears after Morocco’s defeat.

In a later Instagram post, Ronaldo said his dream of winning the World Cup had “ended” but did not say he would retire from international service.

At least Portugal’s Euro 2024 qualifying campaign looks easy. In Group J the opponents are Bosnia, Iceland, Slovakia, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

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Portugal’s next international matches are in March.

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