Coach Fernando Santos has named skipper Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portuguese squad ahead of the March 2017 international break.
The Selecao will face Hungary on Saturday, March 25 at the Estádio da Luz, in a Group B qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. It is somewhat a rematch of the memorable 2016 Euro encounter that ended 3-3 for both countries.
Three days later, the European champions will host Sweden in a friendly game in Ronaldo’s hometown, Funchal. See the full list of the players called-up for the upcoming matches below:
Goalkeepers: Rui Patrício, Anthony Lopes, Marafona
Defenders: Bruno Alves, Cédric Soares, Eliseu, Nélson Semedo, João Cancelo, José Fonte, Luís Neto, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro
Midfielders: André Gomes, Danilo Pereira, João Mário, João Moutinho, Pizzi, Renato Sanches, William Carvalho
Forwards: André Silva, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Éder, Gelson Martins, Ricardo Quaresma
[Source: Portuguese national team’s website]
Portugal have a mad squad btw, could be dark horses again next summer
— KG (@ClassyColkett) March 16, 2017
Despite portraying a sign and image of patriotism, Real Madrid will be particularly weary about their star man leaving for the national team’s camp. In all fairness, the break has come at a really crucial point for the Bernabeu club full of objectives.
The month of April is a make or break period for Zidane’s men in terms of their title aspirations. As scheduled, Los Merengues will face Atletico Madrid in La Liga, Bayern Munich (2x) in the Champions League quarterfinals, as well as play El Clasico in a span of 14 days. It, therefore, rather understandably raises a cause for concern for the league leaders.
In two weeks, Real Madrid will play Atletico Madrid, go play Bayern, come back to Play El Clasico, then go back again and play Bayern
— Dr. Taha ? (@DrTahhaa) March 17, 2017
Real Madrid have to play Atletico Madrid, Bayern (x2), and Barcelona in the space of 15 days?
— ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ (@MagicalMartial) March 17, 2017
To be concise, any injury to their all-time goalscorer (we surely hope not) and other key members, for that matter, will be quite catastrophic to their campaign. As a result, it will be wise for Portugal coach Fernando Santos to ease Ronaldo into this month’s international games rather than starting him outright.
16 of Ronaldo’s 26 goals(61%) this season have come when Madrid were either losing or drawing. Vital. pic.twitter.com/myfPVhziwp
— Zeus (@KeylorinhoZ) March 12, 2017
Or perhaps, he could opt to influence the game from the sidelines like he did during the UEFA Euro final, last year. That, Madridistas will genuinely appreciate. Wink.
Surprised Ronaldo didn’t win Coach of the Year award. Heroic tactics that led to Portugal to win the Euro’s final. pic.twitter.com/T3TShtiCiZ
— Sergi Domínguez (@FutbolSergi) January 9, 2017
But if Ronaldo indeed plays, he must surely be cautious so not to pick up any unwanted knock. While Portugal are on course to qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it would be ridiculous for Real Madrid to lose their talisman and bottle the club’s title chances in April. Pray for Ronaldo to dodge the FIFA virus.