Ronaldo key to tired Portugal side
Manager says Chile ‘are aggressive, but we are also warriors’
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.
Onus is on Cristiano Ronaldo to score for Portugal with defender Pepe, right, suspended for today’s semi-final.