Cristiano Ronaldo is on the cusp of playing in his fifth World Cup after being named in Portugal‘s squad for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
The all-time men’s international goalscorer with 117 goals, Ronaldo, 37, was always expected to be included although he is in the midst of his most difficult campaign.
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Ronaldo has scored just three goals in 16 games across all competitions and started in just four Premier League games.
The former Real Madrid and Juventus star requested to leave Manchester United in the summer in the hope of playing Champions League football but there were no suitors. He was also dropped by United coach Erik ten Hag as punishment after refusing to come on as a substitute in a win over Tottenham in October.
Ronaldo has not scored in his last three appearances for Portugal, yet coach Fernando Santos has kept faith in the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who captained his country to 2016 European Championship glory and to the 2019 UEFA Nations League title.
“In the last four games, Ronaldo has played,” Santos said. “He is currently playing. All the players that I have called up come with a hunger to win and make Portugal world champion, Ronaldo included.
“I believe we can be world champions and that’s what this team can give.”
Santos has called up uncapped Benfica defender Antonio Silva.
Silva, 19, has been a regular starter for Benfica this season. FC Porto veteran defender Pepe has also made the squad and is set to play in a fourth World Cup at the age of 39.
Santos has also included out-of-favour Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix in his 26-man squad. Felix, 23, has lost his starting place at Atletico and scored three goals in 17 appearances this season.
Portugal will miss Liverpool forward Diogo Jota and Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Pedro Neto.
Jota, who has scored 10 times in 29 appearances for Portugal, was ruled out of the tournament with a calf injury while Neto underwent surgery after damaging ankle ligaments.
Portugal take on Nigeria in a warm-up for Qatar on Nov. 17 before they kick off their World Cup campaign on Nov. 23 against Ghana. They also face Uruguay and South Korea in Group H.
Portugal squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (FC Porto), Jose Sa (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Rui Patricio (AS Roma).
Defenders: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Danilo Pereira (Paris St Germain), Pepe (FC Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Antonio Silva (SL Benfica), Nuno Mendes (Paris St Germain), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund).
Midfielders: Joao Palhinha (Fulham FC), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Joao Mario (SL Benfica), Matheus Nunes (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Vitinha (Paris St Germain), William Carvalho (Real Betis), Otavio (FC Porto).
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Rafael Leao (AC Milan), Ricardo Horta (SC Braga), Goncalo Ramos (FC Benfica), Andre Silva (RB Leipzig).
Cristiano Ronaldo leads Portugal squad for fifth World Cup
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