Fernando Santos

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Cristiano Ronaldo left off Portugal squad

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Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo will not be in the lineup when Portugal faces Poland and Scotland during the international break.

Ronaldo, 33, is dealing with rape accusations from Kathryn Mayorga, and has firmly denied her story while calling rape “abominable.”

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Ronaldo was not called up for the last international break in order to give him time to adjust to Juve, and coach Fernando Santos has called up a similar squad and refused to give an explanation for the move, so there’s certainly no guarantee the absence is linked to the rape claims.

Portugal is home to Poland for the UEFA Nations League match — the Scotland game is a friendly — after beating Italy 1-0 in the tournament opener.

Portugal, of course, won the EURO final despite Ronaldo going down with an injury and has plenty of depth in attack to weather his absence against Robert Lewandowski and Poland. Goncalo Guedes, Andre Silva, and Bernardo Silva are among the top attack options.

Portugal manger on Ronaldo’s future: ‘He still has a lot to give’

AP Photo/Andre Penner

As soon as the final whistle blew on Portugal’s 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup round of 16, it was the question on everyone’s mind — as it was for Lionel Messi when Argentina lost to France earlier on Saturday — was that the last time we’ll see Cristiano Ronaldo play at the World Cup? What about for his country, period?

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Predictably, Portugal manger Fernando Santos not only hopes it won’t be Ronaldo’s last World Cup/international appearance, but he’s admittedly desperate to keep the 33-year-old a part of the national team setup — quotes from the BBC:

“He still has a lot to give to football. There is a tournament in September and we hope Cristiano will be with us to help the players grow.”

“We hope he will be there with us, of course, to help the younger ones to grow. We have a team with many young players and it’s important to have a captain. He’s always there for us.”

“Congratulations to Uruguay. It’s very sad for Portugal, though. There’s a real sadness in the dressing room that we weren’t able to make it through for them. In football, there are no moral victories and I would have preferred to play worse and win the match. But I do feel that the second half was very good from us, in terms of desire and our determination to score. We tried our best and we played a good game, I think. But you always want to win, and we lost, so well done to Uruguay for making it through.”

The “tournament in September” to which Santos is referring is the UEFA Nations League, a brand new competition which will replace a vast majority of between-tournament friendlies and provide national teams a competitive environment to sharpen themselves ahead of the 2020 European Championship and the 2022 World Cup, and beyond.

Having already been crowned a champion of Europe — three seasons straight with Real Madrid at the club level, and again with Portugal in 2016 at the international level — will the chance to defend Portugal’s crown serve as motivation enough to attempt another run at the World Cup in Qatar? As Santos also points out, Portugal have a wave of young talent ready — waiting — to break through, and while he’s stood in the way of some of it — as much as an all-time great can do — his presence and wisdom could prove invaluable over the next 12, 24, or perhaps 48 months.

Portuguese team reacts: “Above all else, an amazing Cristiano performance”

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing performance glossed over a disappointing job from Portugal’s players, at least according to the national team’s manager.

Fernando Santos said, “Spain’s players didn’t let our quality players show what they could do.”

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Portugal 3-3 Spain ]

Viewers would beg to differ, at least in the case of Ronaldo (Cheers to Portuguese soccer expert scribe Tom Kundert for the quick post-game quotes).

The Real Madrid megastar scored his first World Cup hat trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain. Ronaldo won and converted a penalty, took advantage of a rare David De Gea howler, and scored with a wonderful 88th minute free kick.

“It’s worth a lot,” Ronaldo said after the game. “It’s a great work of many years. I worked for this, but obviously it’s the team and we’re winning together. We fought to the end and the draw is fair. Spain had control of the ball but it was a great match and it was good for us.”

Portugal does need to be much better in defense by the next time it faces anyone, let alone someone of Spain’s quality.

When Diego Costa is allowed to bull his way around the field, you can’t sit down after contact like Pepe. At some point, Portugal will pay for waiting on Ronaldo.


Portugal sidesteps Ronaldo’s legal woes at Confed Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) He’s their star player, but Portugal would rather talk about anyone except Cristiano Ronaldo.

On the day Ronaldo was summoned to appear before a Spanish judge on accusations of tax fraud, defender Pepe and coach Fernando Santos tried to pretend the story simply didn’t exist.

Pepe waxed lyrical about a coach he’d worked with briefly 14 years ago. Santos nattered about friendly phone calls with a player from his Porto days.

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When they did have to discuss their star player, they kept it general. Legal problems? Ronaldo barely gives them a thought, they suggested.

“Cristiano is one more player who is completely motivated to help Portugal as he has always done,” Pepe said.

“Tomorrow we have a very important game with Russia,” Santos said with a pained expression when asked about Ronaldo. “All the players are concentrated on the Russian game and Cristiano Ronaldo is extremely concentrated with the Russian game which we will play tomorrow.”

When the man himself emerged for training at Moscow’s Spartak stadium, he ignored waiting journalists before giving his teammates a quick nod and starting a ball-juggling exercise.

Last week, Ronaldo was accused by a state prosecutor of four counts of tax fraud totaling 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million). The Portugal forward is now under official investigation and will have to appear in the Pozuelo de Alarcon court No. 1 on July 31. A judge will then decide if there are grounds to charge him with a crime.

The prosecutor last week accused Ronaldo of having a shell company in the Virgin Islands to hide the money he had made from image rights.

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Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing. The accusations against him have caused speculation in Spain that he may seek a move away from Real Madrid.

European champion Portugal goes into Wednesday’s game against Russia on the back of a frustrating 2-2 draw with Mexico – Santos suggested Tuesday he may shake up the squad – while the Russians are riding high in Group A after beating New Zealand 2-0 in their opener.

One man is happy to talk about Ronaldo – Russia forward Fyodor Smolov. Having a megastar in the team is a luxury, he said.

“We don’t have a guy who could compete with Messi or Cristiano for the Ballon D’Or, but I don’t think we need a guy like that,” Smolov said. “It’s hard to build a united team and play as a unit when you have someone like that in the team, because everything revolves around him.”

The Russians have a solid recent home record against Portugal, having won a World Cup qualifier in 2012 and a friendly in 2015.

For many Russian fans, though, Portugal brings back dark memories.

Back in 2004, the 19-year-old Ronaldo scored twice as Portugal demolished Russia 7-1 in Lisbon.

It was Russia’s worst-ever defeat – a record which still stands – and the feeling of national humiliation soon led to younger players being given a chance. That became the genesis of the team which took Russia to the semifinals of the 2008 European championship, its greatest post-Soviet success.

In Euro 2016 final, Santos back where Portugal mission began

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PARIS (AP) The Portugal reign of Fernando Santos will come full circle in the Stade de France on Sunday.

In October 2014, Santos began his mission to revive Portugal’s fortunes after a poor World Cup with a friendly defeat by France at the stadium outside Paris.

Portugal will be back there in Sunday’s European Championship final, against either France or Germany, which meet in the second semifinal on Thursday night.

“My first game at the helm of the team was two years ago, and our goal was to reach here (the final),” Santos said. “Thankfully everything worked out for us. We are stronger, more solid, more united.”

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Certainly more so than in 2014.

Portugal limped out of the last World Cup in the group stage, while Euro 2016 qualifying opened with an embarrassing 1-0 loss to Albania and coach Paulo Bento submitted his resignation.

Portugal turned to Santos, a title-winner with Porto who took Greece to Euro 2012 quarterfinals and the 2014 World Cup last 16. In 13 competitive games, covering Euro 2016 qualifying and the finals, Santos remains unbeaten with Portugal.

“The final will be the highest point in my career so far,” the 61-year-old Santos said. “It’s about my country, my flag, my fatherland, my friends, and my family. From a personal point of view it’s very important.”

For the country it will be a momentous occasion and a chance to banish memories of its only previous final – at Euro 2004 – when the Portuguese lost to rank outsider Greece on home soil.

Back then, Cristiano Ronaldo was a 19-year-old forward, four years away from winning his first world player of the year title.

It’s thanks to Ronaldo that Portugal has now triumphed in a semifinal for only the second time.

Through five games at Euro 2016, the Portuguese couldn’t win a game inside 90 minutes until they overcame Wales 2-0 in Lyon on Wednesday. Ronaldo scored with a towering header before setting up Nani‘s goal.

“Nobody thought Portugal could reach the final,” Ronaldo said.

Now the Real Madrid forward is on a mission to fill the only void on his resume – an international honor.

“I hope that we’ll be smiling and that it will be tears of joy in the end,” Ronaldo said. “I’ve always said my dream was to win a trophy with Portugal. We’re closer to doing it and I believe that we’ll win.”