Portugal weakened ahead of international friendly fixtures

Portugal manager Paulo Bento will be forced to field a weakened backline in tomorrow’s friendly against Panama at the Estádio Algarve after central defenders Pepe and Bruno Alves pulled out through injury.

Portugal manager Paulo Bento will be forced to field a weakened backline in tomorrow’s friendly against Panama at the Estádio Algarve after central defenders Pepe and Bruno Alves pulled out through injury.

Real Madrid star Pepe has suffered a sprain to his right ankle while Zenit St Petersburg defender Alves has picked up a strain to his left thigh.

Portugal’s head doctor, Henrique Jones, confirmed Pepe would not feature.

He told www.as.com: “There is not enough time for the player to recover in three days.”

Deportivo de La Coruna’s Andre Santos replaces Pepe while Braga’s Nuno Andre Coelho and Porto’s Henrique Sereno have also been called up as extra cover to midfielder Carlos Custodio who is also out with a thigh problem.

It is not an ideal situation for Bento who is preparing for next month’s World Cup 2014 qualifier against Luxembourg.

“We’ll be focusing on our way of playing,” the Seleccao manager said.

“The aim is to prepare for the two games in September, with a view to being at the 2014 World Cup. We have to transmit seriousness and competitiveness.

“We should not forget past episodes. We must remember that in our first 135 minutes against Azerbaijan we were drawing 1-1, and we have also drawn 2-2 against Liechtenstein (qualifying campaigns in the Scolari era). We have to play the matches in the same way as in Euro 2012 qualifying, otherwise we’ll be forced into doing calculations early on.” Cristiano Ronaldo sat out of training yesterday but is expected to play.

New Russia manager Fabio Capello has called up 10 uncapped players for tomorrow’s friendly against the Ivory Coast.

The Italian, who replaced Dutchman Dick Advocaat following Russia’s disappointing Euro 2012 campaign, included defender Arseny Logashov, midfielder Oleg Shatov and striker Fyodor Smolov as well as seven from Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg but left out the experienced Igor Semshov and Konstantin Zyryanov.

“I am very proud as it is a big honour for me to be here and to work with a strong national side,” Capello told www.uefa.com.

“The main thing we have to achieve now is to win back the support of Russian fans who feel insulted after Euro 2012.

“The key element is mutual respect between everybody who works with the team, between every member of the squad.

“Nobody will have any privileges. We are all friends here, we are equals. To get results we must work for the team.”

In the other games, France face Uruguay without defender Laurent Koscielny who pulled out due to a calf injury.

England take on Italy without the injured Theo Walcott, Sweden play Brazil, Croatia face Switzerland and Belgium play Holland.

Elsewhere, Norway face Greece, Albania play Moldova, Bulgaria take on Cyprus, Iceland meet the Faroe Islands, Scotland play Australia while Wales take on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia host Ireland and Northern Ireland play Finland.

In the other European games, Hungary play Israel, Luxembourg face Georgia, Ukraine meet Czech Republic, Austria play Turkey, Montenegro host Latvia, Denmark play Slovakia, Poland travel to Estonia and Macedonia play Lithuania.

Mexico will play the United States fresh from their Olympic gold medal triumph, while Costa Rica face Peru, Equador play Chile, Paraguay take on Guatemala and El Salvador host Jamaica in the other South American games, while Puerto Rico play World champions Spain.

Elsewhere, Japan host Venezuela, South Korea play Zambia, China meet Ghana, Azerbaijan take on Bahrain, Slovenia host Romania and Canada play Trinidad & Tobago.

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