U21 Euro squad also announced
Portugal coach Fernando Santos has announced a 25-man squad for Portugal’s first set of qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup, against Azerbaijan, Serbia and Luxembourg.
Sporting’s superb season is reflected in the debut callups of left wing-back Nuno Mendes and holding midfielder João Palhinha, while Arsenal right-back Cédric Soares is recalled after a long absence. Eintracht Frankfurt striker André Silva and Benfica winger Rafa Silva are also recalled.
“This is not a time for experimentation,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos. “This is the start of qualifying for the World Cup, it’s a fundamental triple-header, in a competition that Portugal have never won and which, as I’ve said several times, we are aiming to win.”
The ambitious nature of Santos’ approach to the Qatar World Cup was further emphasised when he was asked about Ronaldo’s state of mind ahead of the resumption of international football. “Ronaldo always has extra motivation when he represents the national team and he has a big dream which is to help us win the World Cup.”
In relation to the two debutants, Santos said: “it’s important to me to evaluate João Palhinha given the positive season he’s had, especially as he has not played much for the Portugal youth levels and he plays in a different system for his club.
“Nuno Mendes also plays in a different system but for the Portugal U21s he plays in a four-man defence and he is a quality player who will have no problem adapting. Our full-backs usually contribute to our attack, and Nuno can do this.”
Portugal start by playing their “home” match against Azerbaijan in Turin on Wednesday 24 March because of travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Three days later they lock horns with Serbia, in Belgrade, and then play Luxembourg away on 30 March.
Full Portugal squad
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rui Patrício (Wolves), Rui Silva (Granada)
Defenders: João Cancelo (Manchester City), Cédric Soares (Arsenal), Domingos Duarte (Granada), Pepe (FC Porto), José Fonte (Lille), Rúben Dias (Manchester City), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Nuno Mendes (Sporting)
Midfielders: Danilo Pereira (PSG), João Palhinha (Sporting), Rúben Neves (Wolves), João Moutinho (Wolves), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Renato Sanches (Lille), Sérgio Oliveira (FC Porto)
Forwards: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Pedro Neto (Wolves), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Rafa Silva (Benfica), João Félix (Atlético Madrid), André Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt)
U21 Euro squad announced
Meanwhile, yesterday Portugal U21 coach Rui Jorge selected the squad who will represent the Seleção at the Under-21 European Championship
Portugal are in Group D and will play Croatia (25/03), England (28/03) and Switzerland (31/03). All three matches will be played in Slovenia.
The Seleção need to finish in the top two positions to make the final stage of the championship which will be played in June.
Portugal are aiming to win this competition for the first time in their history. Should they do so, it would be the perfect way for Rui Jorge to crown 10 years in his post as U21 coach.
Portugal U21 squad for Euro 2021
Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (Porto), João Virgínia (Everton), Luís Maximiano (Sporting)
Defenders: Diogo Leite (FC Porto), Diogo Queirós (Famalicão), Diogo Dalot (Milan), Pedro Pereira (Crotone), Thierry Correia (Valencia), Tiago Djaló (Lille), Tomás Tavares (Farense)
Midfielders: Daniel Bragança (Sporting), Fábio Vieira (FC Porto), Filipe Soares (Moreirense), Florentino Luís (Monaco), Gedson Fernandes (Galatasaray), Pedro Gonçalves (Sporting), Vítor Ferreira (Wolves)
Forwards: Dany Mota (Monza), Trincão (Barcelona), Francisco Conceição (FC Porto), Jota (Valladolid), Rafael Leão (Milan), Tiago Tomás (Sporting)
by Tom Kundert