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Portugal heads to Russia with 13 players from Euro 2016 win

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portugal is going to the World Cup in Russia next month with Cristiano Ronaldo and 12 other players who led the nation to the European Championship title two years ago.

Coach Fernando Santos announced a 23-man squad on Thursday, including nine players who started the final against France at Euro 2016.

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The only two starters from the final who will not make it are Nani and Renato Sanches.

Among the other European champions not going to the World Cup are Ricardo Carvalho, Andre Gomes and Eder, who scored the title-winning goal against the hosts in extra time.

“It hurts not to be able to include all the players who were with us in the European Championship,” Santos said. “All of them helped us write a brilliant page in the history of Portuguese football.”

Andre Gomes’ Barcelona teammate Nelson Semedo was also left out. Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao, who has been on loan with Sporting Lisbon, was omitted after saying he wasn’t in the best condition to play for the national team.

“I have to make my decisions taking into consideration the players I believe will best fit the puzzle,” Santos said. “I trust these players the same way I trusted the players who played at Euro 2016.”

Portugal will begin World Cup preparations without Ronaldo, who will play the Champions League final for Madrid against Liverpool on May 26.

Portugal play warm-up matches against Tunisia on May 28, Belgium on June 2 and Algeria on June 7.

Santos’ men will start their World Cup campaign against Spain on June 15 in Sochi.

The other Group B teams are Iran and Morocco.

Portugal:

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon).

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mario Rui (Napoli), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica).

Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Joao Mario (West Ham), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv), William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon).

Forwards: Andre Silva (AC Milan), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas).

Euro 2016 seen by 2 billion on TV; 600M tune in for final

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GENEVA (AP) Boosted by Cristiano Ronaldo’s title run and Iceland’s feel-good story, the 2016 European Championship attracted 2 billion people to watch live on television.

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The total live audience for the expanded 24-team, 51-match tournament grew to almost 5 billion viewers, according to UEFA research published Thursday.

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The research says 600 million viewers watched some of Portugal’s 1-0 extra-time win over host France in the final.

The final attracted 284.4 million as an “average in-home global audience” – the industry-standard audit tracking viewers minute-by-minute.

The 20 extra matches created by having eight more teams added 1.1 billion viewers to the overall TV audience.

The 2 billion individual viewers was an increase of 100 million on the Euro 2012 figures, UEFA said.

Bigger audiences in Brazil and China helped raise the totals.

“The newly created (1300 GMT) match slot had the biggest impact on Asian audiences,” UEFA said, which scheduled the earliest Euro 2012 kickoffs at 1600 GMT.

Among matches kicking off in a prime 9 p.m. slot in China, the peak audience there was 17.6 million for France’s 2-1 win over Ireland in the round of 16.

Euro 2016 TV rights earned UEFA 1.05 billion euros ($1.1 billion) from 130 broadcast partners.

Ronaldo’s quest for a first national-team title helped draw viewers to the final, who mostly stayed despite his exit from injury midway through the first half.

The 284 million figure made it the second most-watched game in European Championship history. The average audience of the most-viewed match was 299 million when Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final.

In comparison, the 2014 World Cup final drew a 570.1 million average for Germany’s 1-0 extra-time win over Argentina in Rio de Janeiro.

Average audiences in Brazil for the Euro 2016 final topped 25.7 million, watching on three channels: TV Globo, Bandierantes and Sport TV.

Globo averaged more than 13 million viewers for each live match it broadcast, for a 13.2 percent increase on Euro 2012, UEFA’s research said.

In China, the final’s average audience was 8 million in China, and United States broadcaster ESPN averaged 5.3 million.

Still, no nation could match Iceland’s support for its team, which was a surprise quarterfinalist in its major tournament debut.

On the island of 330,000 people, while thousands had traveled to France to watch the team, 99.8 percent of all TV viewers during Iceland’s 2-1 win over Austria were tuned in to the team sealing its place in the knockout rounds.

Cristiano Ronaldo set to make return from EURO 2016 injury

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MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo will play in his first match of the season on Saturday after recovering from the left knee injury he picked up in the European Championship final.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Friday that Ronaldo will play when Madrid hosts Osasuna in the Spanish league.

“We are happy to have him back and we will try to keep him well,” Zidane said. “This is his first match of the season, 60 days since his last one.”

Four days later, Madrid starts the defense of its Champions League title when it hosts Sporting Lisbon, one of Ronaldo’s former clubs.

Ronaldo has been sidelined since injuring his left knee in a collision with France forward Dimitri Payet during the Euro 2016 final on July 10. Portugal won, beating France 1-0 in extra time.

Madrid won the UEFA Super Cup and its opening two matches in the Spanish league without Ronaldo.

Zidane also said that striker Karim Benzema is ready for his first match of the season.

The coach has, however, dropped James Rodriguez, Marcelo and Casemiro from the squad for Osasuna to give them extra rest following matches with their national teams.

Mourinho blasts Ronaldo’s “overload of emotion” before Euro 2016 final whistle

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s actions towards the end of the Euro 2016 final have been brought back to light, and not everyone appreciated what the Portuguese superstar did.

Taken out after a knee injury earlier in the match, Ronaldo couldn’t help himself as the clock wound down, gesturing wildly like a coach alongside manager Fernando Santos. Some appreciated the show of leadership, but others weren’t impressed.

Former Portuguese international Antonio Simoes told Portuguese media that Ronaldo’s ego shone through his actions, and Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho agreed.

“Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t help in any way by doing that in the final few minutes of the Euros final,” Mourinho told Portuguese station SporTV. “There were 11 players on the pitch doing their job, and the person in charge of directing them was the coach. I saw it as an overload of emotion from someone who saw that the team was just minutes away from achieving an objective which everyone wanted.”

The former Real Madrid manager added that Ronaldo and other players in similar positions, “are lost in their own little worlds.”

Mourinho’s words are interesting, considering Manchester United’s prior courting of their former striker. Those rumors died a good time ago, and now the Red Devils have Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading their attack.

Asia-wide crackdown on illegal gambling during EURO 2016

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BANGKOK (AP) Interpol says a crackdown on Asian gambling dens and websites during football’s European Championship led to more than 4,100 people arrested and $13.6 million seized.

Police raided nearly 4,000 illegal dens across Asia and Europe, including in China, Singapore, France, and Italy.

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Two operations coordinated in Thailand targeted organized crime networks and transnational networks in Asia “behind illicit websites and call-center type operations running online scams,” Interpol says.

Three Thai offices of illegal online gambling sites were shut down, and 15 people were arrested in Malaysia linked to payment card fraud.

Interpol’s head of anti-corruption and financial crimes unit, Jim Anderson, says “illegal gambling generates massive profits for organized crime networks which are often linked to corruption, human trafficking, and money laundering.”