Saturday, June 22, 2024

Ronaldo expected to play for Portugal against Ireland

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Cristiano Ronaldo will get a chance to prove his readiness for the Euro 2024 finals as Portugal boss Roberto Martinez prepares to unleash him on John O’Shea’s Ireland side.

The 39-year-old former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus star did not figure in the warm-up matches against Finland and Croatia, but is expected to play some part along with 41-year-old Pepe and Ruben Neves against Ireland in Tuesday night’s friendly in Aveiro.

Martinez told a press conference: “The plan is to have minutes. We need to have training, so I don’t know if they will start or finish the game, but Pepe, Ruben and Ronaldo will have minutes.

“Players need to play minutes, have connections, enjoy the game, work on collective concepts. Ireland has a competitive capacity that is good for us because the tactical structure is similar to that of Georgia, for example.”

Portugal launch their finals campaign against the Czech Republic in Leipzig on 18 June and Martinez has no qualms about the ability of Ronaldo or Pepe to make an impact on the tournament despite their advanced years.

He said: “The players are ready for tomorrow and it’s the next step. Pepe has a lot of experience, Cristiano too.

“They are players who had very good periods in the national team and the next step is the next game against Ireland.

“I have no doubt that they are very important players when they are on the pitch and also when they are not on the pitch because of the meaning they have.

“Let’s hope they can do a good job tomorrow and keep moving forward.”

That said, Martinez will monitor Ronaldo’s output to ensure he gets the best out of him when it matters most.

He added: “Cristiano had 51 games – he had no problem playing them all – but the data at club level is not the same as national team level.

“He showed that he can play every four days, but we evaluate that in real time during the tournament.”

Ireland have steadied the ship in the three games they have played under interim boss O’Shea, beating Hungary 2-1 last week after drawing with Belgium and losing narrowly to Switzerland in March.

Martinez knows from his time in charge of the Belgians how dogged the Irish can be – the sides drew 2-2 in a 2022 friendly under his charge – and that, he believes, will be good preparation for what lies ahead.

He said: “Ireland is a new team, the coach arrived with new ideas, the players are executing his ideas clearly.

“Defensively, they are a very well-organised team, but they also have the ability to attack quickly and work very well on dead balls. For us, it is an aspect to be ready for.”

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