Ron­aldo key to tired Por­tu­gal side

Man­ager says Chile ‘are ag­gres­sive, but we are also war­riors’

The National - News - Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Por­tu­gal and Chile will both try to outdo each other in to­day’s semi-fi­nal to move one step closer to prov­ing their re­cent ti­tles on the re­gional front are not a flash in the pan.

Af­ter help­ing steer Por­tu­gal to the Euro 2016 ti­tle in Paris a year ago, Ron­aldo is aim­ing to win a sec­ond in­ter­na­tional ti­tle when the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup fi­nal con­cludes on Sun­day in Saint Peters­burg. The win­ner of the clash with Chile in Kazan will meet Mex­ico or Ger­many, who meet in the other semi-fi­nal.

Ron­aldo is clos­ing in on the leg­endary Ferenc Puskas’ Euro­pean record of 84 in­ter­na­tional goals, de­spite the off-field tur­moil and con­stant spec­u­la­tion about his fu­ture – he has re­port­edly threat­ened to quit Real Madrid.

How­ever, fa­tigue could well be an is­sue in Por­tu­gal’s ranks.

Man­ager Fer­nando San­tos opted to rest none of his for­ward line against the Ki­wis and it has been a long sea­son for the likes of Ron­aldo, Joao Moutinho, An­dre Gomes and Bernardo Silva.

Manch­ester City new boy Silva, 22, went down clutch­ing his right foot af­ter scor­ing in Satur­day’s win over New Zealand.

“We still have 24 hours to de­cide if he plays or not, he has re­acted well to his in­jury and we’ll take the de­ci­sion tomorrow,” said San­tos when asked about the for­mer Monaco winger.

Left-back Raphael Guer­reiro is strug­gling with a badly bruised foot and will not fea­ture. With de­fender Pepe sus­pended, ei­ther Jose Fonte or Luis Neto will part­ner Bruno Alves at cen­tre-back as San­tos ex­pects a tricky tie against Juan An­to­nio Pizzi’s men.

The Chile coach was a player at FC Porto in 2000 un­der man­ager San­tos.

“They have a good team,” San­tos said. “They’re ag­gres­sive with a fight­ing, com­bat­ive spirit, but we are also war­riors. We have a great ca­pa­bil­ity to suf­fer and we don’t fear any­one.

“They are a very dy­namic team with a lot of move­ment and are not an easy team to an­a­lyse.

“Their strengths are many, but like any team they have weak­nesses. “We are go­ing to try to be bet­ter tomorrow.” Chile, who won the Copa Amer­ica in both 2015 and 2016, will present Por­tu­gal with their tough­est test so far in Rus­sia, al­though the South Amer­i­cans are yet to beat Por­tu­gal in com­pe­ti­tion.

Por­tu­gal topped Group A with seven points from three games while Chile fin­ished sec­ond in Group B with five.

Sergey Dolzhenko / EPA

Onus is on Cris­tiano Ron­aldo to score for Por­tu­gal with de­fender Pepe, right, sus­pended for to­day’s semi-fi­nal.

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