Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Portugal consider resting CR7

Published:Saturday | June 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this photo taken on Tuesday, March 28 2017, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo controls the ball during an international friendly match against Sweden.


Portugal coach Fernando Santos could deny himself the pleasure of seeing Cristiano Ronaldo play against New Zealand today.

After promising to rotate his starting line-up for a third Confederations Cup game in seven days, Santos would not confirm if that means rest for his 32-year-old star.

"Everybody wants to watch Cristiano Ronaldo, even I want to watch Cristiano Ronaldo," the coach said yesterday, smiling when asked how Russia's enthusiasm for the current world's best player compared to other countries.

"I don't know if I'm going to play with Cristiano or without Cristiano," Santos said through a translator. "Obviously, rotation will take place, that I can tell you."

Portugal has the luxury of choosing because of Ronaldo's decisive header early in a 1-0 win over Russia on Wednesday - his 74th goal in 141 national-team games.

The European champions have four points in Group A and need only a draw against No. 95-ranked New Zealand to advance to the semi-finals.

One reason Ronaldo is strong deep into June is because Real Madrid managed his playing time more carefully this season. He peaked from April onward with a rush of Champions League goals, including two in the final to help beat Juventus 4-1.

Santos also noted his team's Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule so far in three different Russian cities.

"It's less than 72 hours to recover, it's not easy," said the coach, who steered his team to the Euro 2016 title over seven games in a 27-day period in France.

Still, the lone New Zealand reporter at the tournament insisted at the pre-match news conference that more than four million people back home want to see Ronaldo face the All Whites for the first time.

"It's many, many millions who every time Cristiano plays are very interested in watching him play," Santos said. "I'm glad that also happens in New Zealand."

New Zealand is already eliminated after losing both games, though unsettled Mexico in a 2-1 defeat. The North American champion had rested several players who started in a 2-2 draw against Portugal, including forward Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez.