The wait is over.
Fernando Santos has announced the Portugal squad for World Cup 2018. In a largely expected list, the major surprise was the exclusion of Rúben Neves, who had a magnificent season for Wolverhampton Wanderers and seemed a natural replacement for the injured Danilo. Santos preferred Adrien Silva as the backup to William in the defensive midfield position.
Elsewhere, Porto right-back Ricardo Pereira got the nod over João Cancelo and Nélson Semedo, while another Barcelona player, André Gomes, also missed out. Santos said the players will report for duty next Tuesday.
Santos has been accused by some critics of being too loyal to the same group of players, but of the 23-man squad that travels to Russia, only 13 players were in the Euro 2016 squad. While the selection of the centre-backs in particular reinforces concerns about the veteran status of certain players, on the other hand the group contains six players aged 23 or under: Rúben Dias, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Gelson Martins, Gonçalo Guedes and André Silva.
Asked whether he felt the squad was stronger than the set of players he took to Euro 2016, Santos replied: "That's impossible to say. At Euro 2016 Portugal won a trophy for the first time and we have to be grateful to the players for that. What I can say is that I'm as confident in this squad as I was for the Euro."
Portugal's World Cup 2018 squad:
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon/France), Beto (Goztepe/Turkey), Rui Patrício (Sporting/Portugal)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers/Scotland), Cédric Soares (Southampton/England), José Fonte (Dalian Aerbin/China), Mário Rui (Napoli/Italy), Pepe (Besiktas/Turkey), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/Germany), Ricardo (Porto/Portugal), Rúben Dias (Benfica/Portugal)
Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester City/England), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/England), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting/Portugal), João Mário (West Ham United/England), João Moutinho (Monaco/France), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow/Russia), William (Sporting/Portugal)
Forwards: André Silva (AC Milan/Italy), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Spain), Gelson Martins (Sporting/Portugal), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia/Spain), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas/Turkey)
By Tom Kundert