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PORTUGAL

Santos gives Ronaldo a rest for Russia and Luxembourg

Santos gives Ronaldo a rest for Russia and Luxembourg

ARBEN CELI

REUTERS

The Portugal manager elects to try out some younger player for friendly matches. Gonçalo Guedes and Lucas João called up.

Portugal manager Fernando Santos announced his 23-man squad for the upcoming friendlies against Russia and Luxembourg, and as we expected left captain Cristiano Ronaldo off the list.

In a press conference, Santos explained that the Real Madrid forward is an "undisputed starter" for his country but that after assuring their qualification for the Euros in France next year these matches are a chance to give other players a chance to impress.

"It's a way of managing the team," Santos said, adding that as well as Ronaldo the squad is missing other key players in Tiago, Danny, Ricardo Carvalho and Ricardo Quaresma.

"Why do we only ever talk about Cristiano?" Santos asked when the inevitable deluge of questions from the press descended. "Carvalho and Tiago have also been captains and people only talk about Cristiano, Cristiano, Cristiano [...] I thought it was a good time to try something different, and I think it's the right choice."

Among the surprise inclusions in Santos' squad are 18-year-old Benfica starlet Gonçalo Guedes, and Sheffield Wednesday forward Lucas João.

Santos explained that he intends to run the rule over some 30 players before settling on his squad for the Euros and said he was happy to have so many options. He denied that the absence of Ronaldo and other key players was due to the level of the opposition, stating that if he was in the mood for "experimenting," he would have organized matches in Portugal against "low-profile sides."

Santos also pointed out that in other recent qualification campaigns Portugal have been obliged to go into the playoffs, noting that automatic qualification on this occasion "is a very good sign."

"The European Championships start today," he added.

Portugal squad:

Keepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rui Patrício (Sporting), Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb).

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Cédric (Southampton), José Fonte (Southampton), Eliseu (Benfica), Luís Neto (Zenit), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Pepe (Real Madrid), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient).

Midfielders: André André (Porto), Danilo (Porto) Bernardo Silva (Mónaco), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Joao Mário (Sporting), William Carvalho (Sporting), André Gomes (Valencia).

Forwards: Gonçalo Guedes (Benfica), Ricardo Pereira (Nice), Lucas Joao (Sheffield Wednesday), Nélson Oliveira (Nottingham Forest), Nani (Fenerbahçe).

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