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Winning World Cup playoffs my most important challenge as Portugal coach, says Santos


Portugal coach Fernando Santos described the World Cup playoffs as the most important challenge of his time in charge as he announced his squad on Thursday.

Portugal will play Turkey on March 24 in Porto with the winner to face either Italy or North Macedonia five days later in a game that will determine one of the last three spots left for European teams at Qatar 2022, which kicks off in November.

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Veteran Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo was named in the 25-man squad that will start its preparation on Monday.

“It’s simple: we need to win, nothing else matters,” Santos told a news conference. “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 added.

In his eight years as Portugal manager, Santos won the 2016 European Championship and reached the last-16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The coach is confident that his team, which dropped into the playoffs after losing its final group stage qualifier to Serbia, can go through if it keeps its cool.

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“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.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Roma), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Diogo Costa (Porto).

Defenders: Cedric Soares (Arsenal), Diogo Dalot (Manchester United), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Gonçalo Inacio (Sporting Lisboa), Jose Fonte (Lille), Pepe (Porto), Nuno Mendes (Paris St Germain), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund).

Midfielders: Danilo (Paris Saint Germain), Ruben Neves (Wolves), William Carvalho (Betis), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Joao Moutinho (Wolves), Matheus Nunes (Sporting Lisboa), Otavio (Porto), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City).

Forwards: Andre Silva (Leipzig), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Rafael Leao (Milan).



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