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England v Portugal: Santos confident despite Ronaldo absence

Fernando Santos has faith that Portugal’s squad will be able to cope without Cristiano Ronaldo for a second-successive game when they face England at Wembley on Thursday.

Ronaldo missed Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Norway due to his participation in Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph over rivals Atletico Madrid in Milan – the superstar forward scoring the decisive penalty to seal their 11th title in Europe’s premier competition.

Central defender Pepe was also in action for Zinedine Zidane’s men and he too will not feature against England as the pair are given time off ahead of Portugal’s Euro 2016 opener against Iceland on June 14.

Head coach Santos is confident the remaining 21 players at his disposal are capable of getting the job done and believes it is time to prove Portugal can compete without talisman Ronaldo.

“I’m absolutely not worried about Cristiano,” he said after the Norway win. “He will be here next weekend with his team-mates with a strong desire to help the team.

“I do not know why we are always talking about Ronaldo, or why people say we are dependent on Ronaldo.

“Everyone recognises that he is an important part of this team, but Portugal has to believe it can win without him.”

Portugal have a further friendly against Estonia ahead of the Euros, but for England this is the last chance to impress manager Roy Hodgson ahead of their first group game with Russia in Marseille.

Thursday’s friendly is the first since Hodgson whittled his selection down to the final 23, the England boss choosing to overlook Andros Townsend and Danny Drinkwater for the squad.

The duo join Fabian Delph – who was ruled out with a groin injury last week – in missing out, but there is a place for Manchester United teenager Marcus Rashford who grasped his opportunity with a goal on his England debut against Australia.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere – who played 45 minutes against the Socceroos – also makes the cut despite well-document injury problems this term, while Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge have also done enough to prove their fitness to Hodgson.

Tottenham quartet Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Dele Alli all sat out Friday’s 2-1 win over Australia, along with goalkeeper Joe Hart, so they are likely to be given time by Hodgson to maintain their fitness levels.

England have not faced Portugal since a contentious World Cup quarter-final defeat in 2006 in which now captain Wayne Rooney was sent off and Ronaldo scored the winning penalty in a shootout after the match finished goalless.

That was the fourth successive draw between the two nations, two of which ended in penalty shootout glory for Portugal.

In fact Portugal have not lost against England since 1998.

Tue 31 May, 2016
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