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Cristiano Ronaldo & Portuguese Old Guard Dominate Selection for World Cup Qualifiers

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By Martin Graham | 18th Mar 2022

Portugal manager Fernando Santos has released his squad list for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers playoffs.

The Euro 2016-winning manager is depending on his old guard to qualify Portugal for another World Cup despite failing to qualify directly with the same selection.

Portugal’s playoff bracket contains Italy, Turkey and North Macedonia. Portugal will face Turkey while Italy will play North Macedonia. The winners of both fixtures will meet to officially decide who goes through from the bracket.

Portugal are in the playoffs after failing to defeat Serbia in the last group game of the World Cup qualifiers. Portugal Manager Fernando Santos, however, is choosing not to alter the dynamics of the team, and is depending on the same squad that only made it to the playoffs.

The squad will be led by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, whose form has been below par this season for Manchester United despite his recent hat-trick.

Ronaldo’s Manchester United teammates Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot also made the squad, as Santos prepares to take on Turkey, who have had great luck in many qualifying games.

The veteran manager declared that nothing is as important as securing a spot at the World Cup.

“We want to be in the World Cup, that is our goal,” Santos declared at a press-conference on Thursday, after announcing his squad list.

“There isn’t much else to talk about, this is the moment to win. Everything else is less important.

“If we don’t manage to reach our goal it would go down in history, that’s indisputable.

“We’re convinced that together we will achieve the objective. We’re not worried about predictions, what matters is the present.”

Portugal will be without Ruben Dias, Renato Sanches and Nelson Semedo due to injury.

Santos: World Cup qualification my biggest challenge

The veteran manager was also asked about his chances of making it to Qatar come November 2022.

“It’s simple: we need to win, nothing else matters,” Santos said at the news conference at the release of the squad list.

“This is the most important challenge I had as Portugal manager. Not the most difficult, the most important. We must be in the World Cup for our people.

“The tickets were sold-out in minutes more than a month ago. Our fans will be a major factor and we can’t let them down.”

He then reminisced of the situation that got them to the Europa League.

“We are in this spiral of drama that is not positive for us,” Santos said. “We lost one game in the last seven games. There were things that didn’t go well, but we just didn’t win a game against Serbia.

“We were very upset about that, but now it’s about taking what was positive and win again. Talent wins games, but a team wins championships. Players know that and they are in the right mindset,” he added.

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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