Ronaldo Returns To Portugal Squad For First Time Since World Cup
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Cristiano Ronaldo is back with the Portugal national team.
After more than eight months away from the Seleção das Quinas since the 2018 World Cup, coach Fernando Santos picked Ronaldo to the squad to play against Ukraine and Serbia in Euro 2020 qualifiers, the team announced Friday.
Portugal will play Ukraine on March 22 and Serbia on March 25, both at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz.
Estes são os convocados para o início da defesa do título! #TodosPortugalVem ver os craques ao vivo!
22/03 e 25/03
https://t.co/1jjMCgX7lD e https://t.co/kKNjZv8A8A
Estádio da Luz pic.twitter.com/eQ3GgGw6OJ
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) March 15, 2019
Ronaldo did not play for Portugal during the UEFA Nations League in the fall, nor friendlies against Croatia and Scotland. At first, the reasoning given was to let the star man rest and acclimate with his new club after a big-money move to Juventus over the summer. But later it seemed more likely Portugal was leaving its all-time leader in goals and appearances off the roster because of serious rape allegations.
Those allegations haven’t gone anywhere, but it seems Santos thought enough time had passed to return Ronaldo to the fold.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world and he is returning to the national team," Santos said in a news conference on Friday. “Any team would be stronger with Ronaldo. He already spoke this week about his absence from the national team (to adapt to life with Juventus). The team will be stronger with Ronaldo.”
Fernando Santos: "Cristiano é só o melhor jogador do mundo que regressa à sua equipa. Qualquer equipa fica mais forte." #TodosPortugal— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) March 15, 2019
Portugal was drawn into Group B for Euro 2020 qualifying alongside Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania and Luxembourg. Euro 2020 should be a special one, with 12 cities in 12 countries hosting matches, and Portugal is the defending champion.
Without Ronaldo, the team captain, Portugal won Nations League Group B and will play Switzerland in June as part of the Nations League Finals, with England or the Netherlands in the final or third-place match four days later. Ronaldo might be left out of those squads if he is involved in the Champions League final, which is June 1. Juventus found out Friday it will play Ajax and then either Manchester City or Tottenham in the UCL quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
Ronaldo’s last appearance for Portugal came in a 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the World Cup Round of 16.
Ronaldo’s return to international football comes a week after Lionel Messi was included on the Argentina roster for friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco. Messi hasn’t played for La Albiceleste since the World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Stats
(All-time Portugal rank in parentheses)
Appearances — 154 (first)
Goals — 85 (first)
Goals per appearance — 0.55 (second among those with 20+ goals)
Hat tricks — 6 (first)
Assists — 28