Spain beats Georgia 4-1 to reach Euro 2024 quarterfinals. It next plays host Germany

FRANKFURT: Concerns are growing among Portugal supporters about Roberto Martinez’s approach as his side face Slovenia in the last 16 of Euro 2024 on Monday.

Portugal arrived in Germany among the favorites to win the tournament for the second time, but despite topping Group F, their performances have lowered expectations of how far the Selecao can go.

They secured a 2-1 last-gasp victory over the Czech Republic, impressed in a 3-0 win against Turkiye and then fell to a shock 2-0 defeat by debutants Georgia.

Martinez deployed a 3-5-2 formation against the Czechs and Georgia, which his players struggled to understand, while the more familiar 4-3-3 worked well against Turkiye.

After qualifying for the Euros with a 100 per cent record, Portugal’s form since then has been much more erratic, with Georgia inflicting their first competitive defeat of Martinez’s reign.

Slovenia were the first team to beat Martinez’s Portugal in a friendly in March, with their 3-5-2 system failing again that day.

But veteran Portugal defender Pepe said the team must step up and follow Martinez’s instructions better.

“I think we lost when we should have lost and now we have to learn from it,” the centre-back said ahead of the clash with Slovenia in Frankfurt.

“We have to learn from what we didn’t do as players, if we followed what the coach asked us in general, and of course try not to make mistakes in the next game.”

However, some in the Portuguese media believe the players are baffled by Martinez’s plans and are therefore struggling to execute them.

“We wonder if Roberto Martinez understood what went wrong against Georgia and the Czech Republic for that matter,” read a column in the A Bola newspaper.

“It’s hard to see in (many players’) faces a team that knows what it’s doing and, perhaps more importantly, believes in it.”

There are also concerns Martinez is too deferential to 39-year-old forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who has not scored in any of the three group games.

Despite rotating almost his entire squad for the loss to Georgia, Ronaldo still started, and Martinez’s reasoning didn’t particularly hold up to scrutiny.

“I think to continue with the competitive pace it’s not good to stop and then (have to) reactivate you in six days,” the coach explained before Portugal’s capitulation.

Martinez left Belgium after the 2022 World Cup, where his side were knocked out in the group stage, scoring just one goal.

In that tournament, Eden Hazard’s selection was questioned given his struggles with fitness and form at Real Madrid, with the winger later stating that he felt the younger players deserved his place. Portugal fans hope the Georgia result will be a wake-up call for Martinez, but the coach claimed his side are now well-prepared for the knockout rounds after sharing some minutes with the reserves.

“The focus has been on the preparation of all the players and now we are better prepared for the round of 16,” said Martinez.

“We had players on the bench who had to play. “We don’t like to lose – it’s the first competitive game we’ve lost – but the goal was achieved because now we’re more prepared.”

In Slovenia, Portugal face tough opponents who reached the knockout stage for the first time in their history by holding England to a draw.

With Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak in goal against his former Real Madrid nemesis Ronaldo and forward Benjamin Sesko at the other end, Matjaz Kek’s side could prove a thorny opposition for a Portuguese side who are struggling to catch up.

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