Cristiano Ronaldo was right to leave the Confederations Cup to be with his newborn twins, Portugal team-mate Pepe believes.
Ronaldo started all four of Portugal’s games at the tournament and scored two goals before the Euro 2016 champions were beaten 3-0 on penalties by Chile at the semi-final stage.
The Real Madrid star then announced the birth of his newborn twins and said he will not be available for the third-place play-off against Mexico on Sunday, with former team-mate Pepe supportive of the decision.
“Cristiano is our captain,” Pepe, who has left Madrid after 10 years at the club, told reporters. “He sacrificed himself to be here with us and gave his all to help Portugal. Unfortunately we could not reach the final, which was what we all wanted.
“Being a father is a blessing from God. As a father, I feel happy for him. It is one of the most beautiful things in life; to be able to educate a child and guide them in their first steps.
“I’m happy because he was here until the last moment and I thank the president and the national team who gave him the opportunity to be with his children, who were born a few weeks ago.
“We are happy for him, I already knew about it, although there were several colleagues who did not.”
So happy to be able to hold the two new loves of my life pic.twitter.com/FIY11aWQm9
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) June 29, 2017
Pepe was banned for the semi-final but the centre-back is expected to return to Fernando Santos’ team to play Mexico despite Portugal keeping a third consecutive clean sheet against Chile.
Mexico are the only team to have scored against Portugal at the tournament, recording a 2-2 draw in their opening group game, but they have problems at the other end of the pitch, having shipped four goals to Germany in their semi-final exit.
— #ConfedCup (@FIFAcom) June 30, 2017
Juan Carlos Osorio’s injury problems are unlikely to be eased ahead of the game, with defenders Diego Reyes and Carlos Salcedo both expected to be out.
While Osorio’s team have been sporadically impressive in Russia, they have fallen behind in all four of their matches at the tournament so far, leaving forwards such as Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier Hernandez, who has scored once in four games, with too much to do.
And comments made by Mexico legend Hugo Sanchez, a former coach of the national team, are unlikely to help Osorio, who has come under fire for his tactics.
“We don’t have the style to think that [things] will change between now and the World Cup,” Sanchez told ESPN after Mexico’s 4-1 loss to world champions Germany.
“Osorio is stubborn. He keeps his rotations, centre-backs [play] as full-backs, forwards as wingers, and that will not help make the most of football in Mexico in the league and with the national team.”
Beating Portugal may go some way to silencing Osorio’s critics.
Key Opta stats
– Mexico have had more shots (71) and more shots on target (29) than any other nation in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
– Portugal are unbeaten in their four previous meetings with Mexico in all competitions, with two wins and two draws, including a 2-2 in the group stages of this tournament.
– Marco Fabian’s wonder strike in Mexico’s semi-final defeat was the furthest distance goal in this year’s tournament (38.2 yards).
– Portugal have conceded just twice in this tournament (a joint-low alongside Chile), while Mexico have conceded the most (8, same as New Zealand).
– Mexico’s 1-4 defeat in the semi-final against Germany was their second biggest loss in Confederations Cup history, after their 0-4 loss against France in 2001.
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