Portugal’s Santos crossing his fingers as injury worries mount

Published November 28, 2022
Portugal's coach Fernando Santos attends a team training session at Al Shahania SC in Al Samriya, northwest of Doha on November 27. — AFP
Portugal's coach Fernando Santos attends a team training session at Al Shahania SC in Al Samriya, northwest of Doha on November 27. — AFP

AL RAYYAN: Portugal coach Fernando Santos said he hoped central defender Danilo Pereira would not be sidelined with injury for long and there were also fitness concerns about midfielder Otavio ahead of Monday’s World Cup match against Uruguay.

Pereira suffered three broken ribs in training on Saturday, ruling him out of the rematch of the 2018 World Cup round of 16 clash, which Uruguay won 2-1.

“As far as I know he is improving and we expect to have him back on the pitch very soon,” Santos told reporters on Sunday.

“But if we don’t, we have three other centre halves who can replace him. We don’t need to make a drama of it.”

Portuguese media repo­rted that Pereira would miss the group stage and his involvement would be in doubt if Portugal make it to the knockout rounds.

Asked about 39 year-old defender Pepe, who was on the bench when Portugal beat Ghana 3-2 in their opening match in the World Cup in Qatar last Thursday, Santos said he was “a monster” and would be in the team on Monday.

Decisions about the availability of Otavio, who started against Ghana, and reserve left back Nuno Mendes, who is also an injury concern, would be taken after a training session later on Sunday, Santos said.

Portugal top Group ‘H’ and face Uruguay in their second match at the Lusail Stadium on Monday.

Santos said the South Americans remained a very strong team with the ability to counter-attack at pace, even if strikers Edson Cavani and Luis Suarez were older.

“We will have to be very careful because they can press their opponents really intensely, force them into errors and then hit them hard,” Santos said.

Uruguay will want to avoid defeat against Portugal so their fate can remain in the own hands in their final match against Ghana. Uruguay have looked good since Diego Alonso took over late last year and turned things around in qualifying. He has every player available in his squad, except Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo, recovering from thigh surgery.

Alonso expects a tough game on Monday and for the group to be decided in the final match.

“Obviously the second game is key as is the third,” he said. “Whether we qualify or not depends on us.”

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2022

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