CRISTIANO Ronaldo will lead Portugal to the 2022 World Cup after coach Fernando Santos included the veteran striker in his 26-man squad on Thursday (10/11).
The 37-year-old Manchester United striker has not been his club’s first choice this season but will be part of his country’s bid to win the World Cup for the first time in their history.
Ronaldo, captain and all-time leading scorer in men’s international football with 117 goals, has many younger teammates in attack, including Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix and AC Milan’s Rafael Leao.
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“All the players I called up came hungry to win and make Portugal world champions, including Ronaldo,” said Santos.
Ronaldo is going to his fifth World Cup having played for his country in every edition of the tournament since 2006.
Santos, who guided Portugal to Euro 2016 glory in France, left Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Renato Sanches out of the squad and brought in Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Matheus Nunes instead.
“The most important thing is the players who will go to the World Cup,” Santos said, declining to discuss the players who did not qualify.
“The 26 players (who were elected) thought that justice had been served, and those who didn’t leave, on the contrary,” he continued.
Santos called up Benfica’s centre-back Antonio Silva, 19, and Pepe, who is 39.
The Porto defender has not played since October 4 due to a knee injury but will be fit for the tournament in Qatar, which starts on November 20.
“I asked the medical department if there were any players who weren’t fit, the answer was no,” said Santos when asked about Pepe.
Liverpool striker Diogo Jota is out with a calf injury.
Wolves midfielder Joao Moutinho, 36, who has made 146 appearances for Pertugal, more than any other player besides Ronaldo, was left out, as was teammate Goncalo Guedes.
Portugal will open their World Cup games in Group H against Ghana on November 24, before facing Uruguay on November 28 and South Korea on December 2.
Santos was critical of the timing of the tournament, the first World Cup to be staged in winter, but was pleased with the lack of travel made during the tournament as all the stadiums are relatively close together.
“It’s not good for the club, it’s not good for anyone,” said Santos. “The exception is this is great for traveling. I have participated in several World Cups and traveling between matches is difficult.”
“In this aspect, there is an advantage. No stadium is more than 25 minutes away. We don’t have to walk around carrying everything. It won’t tire us, the game ends and we go back to the hotel,” he concluded.
The composition of the Portugal national team players:
Goalkeeper: Diogo Costa (Porto), Rui Patricio (Rome/Italy), Jose Sa (Wolverhampton Wanderers/England)
Defender: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United/England), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City/England), Danilo Pereira (Paris Saint-Germain/France), Pepe (Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City/England), Antonio Silva (Benfica), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain/France), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/Germany)
Midfielder: Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers/England), Joao Palhinha (Fulham/England), William Carvalho (Real Betis/Spain), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United/England), Vitinha (Paris Saint-Germain/France), Otavio (Porto), Joao Mario (Benfica), Matheus Nunes (Wolverhampton Wanderers/England), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/England)
Attacker: Rafael Leao (AC Milan/Italy), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Ricardo Horta (Braga), Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United/England), Andre Silva (RB Leipzig/Germany) (Ant/ OL-1)