France v Portugal: Santos to lead visitors for first time

9 October 2014 23:22

Fernando Santos will take charge of Portugal for the first time on Saturday when they face France in an international friendly in Paris.

The 59-year-old replaced Paulo Bento last month, despite being hit with an eight-match ban by FIFA for his actions while in charge of Greece at the World Cup in Brazil.

Santos was sanctioned after verbally abusing the match officials during the last-16 clash with Costa Rica, which Greece lost on penalties.

With the suspension only covering competitive matches, Santos is free to take charge at the Stade de France on Saturday as Portugal look to build towards their Euro 2016 qualifier in Denmark three days later.

They will be desperate to recover from the shock 1-0 home loss to Albania which cost Bento his job, and midfielder Andre Gomes sees the weekend’s encounter in the French capital as a chance to put that defeat behind them.

“We want to learn from past mistakes because only that way can we keep on improving,” he said.

“Above all the group is stronger and more united. There is a great union towards achieving our goals.”

The visitors will be boosted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the Albania game due to fitness concerns.

The forward has been in blistering form for Real Madrid, scoring a scarcely believable 17 goals in 10 La Liga outings. The 29-year-old is currently on an eight-game scoring streak, and France striker Andre-Pierre Gignac expressed his admiration for the Ballon d’Or holder on Thursday.

Gignac has been in fine form himself for Marseille, netting nine times in as many Ligue 1 appearances so far in 2014-15, but the 28-year-old has rubbished any comparisons between the pair’s recent displays.

“Oh, be serious…Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world with [Lionel] Messi,” he said.

“He has more than one goal per game on average. What to say? I want to be prolific, but there is no comparison really.”

Gignac returns to the national set-up for the first time since September last year, and will vie for a starting berth with the likes of Karim Benzema, Loic Remy and Antoine Griezmann.

France were dealt a blow on Thursday with the news that defender Laurent Koscielny had withdrawn due to an Achilles problem, with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa called up as his replacement.