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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Portugal's Fernando Santos 'always' believed his side would top group

ESPN FC's Mark Ogden explains the significance of having Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal at Russia 2018.
Portugal's victory over Switzerland sealed the top spot in Group B and earned a berth for the 2018 World Cup.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said he never doubted that his side would qualify for the World Cup after securing their place with a 2-0 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

After their Euro 2016 triumph, Portugal's qualifying campaign began with a 2-0 defeat to Switzerland that September, but both sides won all eight of their next qualifiers, setting up Tuesday's showdown.

Santos' men had the better goal difference and qualified for Russia 2018, while the Swiss will have to go through the UEFA playoffs.

But even with the early slip-up, Santos remained optimistic that his side would top the qualifying group, and thanked his players after Tuesday's clincher.

"I always thought it was possible," Santos said. "I had confidence in my players and luckily they gave me this gift.

"When you have quality and organisation you are always closer to winning. This team came back to play very well, with good ball control.

"Not all of the 90 minutes were perfect but fortunately we won and we are in Russia."

Portugal will be playing in Russia next summer.

Switzerland kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet on Tuesday, but a Johan Djourou own goal and Andre Silva strike allowed resilient Portugal to see out the win.

"There is a perfect symbiosis between coach and players," Santos said. "I always believe in my players. It is not easy to have 25 players with this mindset and it creates a fantastic environment.

"I believe in our work, in the work of the technical team and in the work of the federation. It is this collaboration that gives us this result."

Bernardo Silva, who set up Andre Silva for Portugal's second goal, gave credit to Santos for rallying his squad to nine straight qualifying victories.

"Fernando Santos always gives a lot of confidence to the players and is on our side," he said. "As we did in the European Championship, we always try to win. So we will try to win the World Cup."

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