In the latest Portugal news, coach Fernando Santos says it was very difficult to leave out four of the key players from his winning Euro 2016 team when selecting his World Cup squad.
Santos only released his 35-man preliminary squad on Monday but has wasted little time in trimming that down to a final 23, with several high-profile casualties.
Portugal’s third most-capped player Nani has been left out, having not featured for the national side since last year’s Confederations Cup, while Barcelona’s Andre Gomes has also been axed after a difficult season in Spain.
Eder, the man who scored the winner in the Euro 2016 final, will be watching from home, while Renato Sanches did not even make the preliminary squad after a dreadful season on loan at Swansea from Bayern Munich.
Santos says it was not easy telling the players they would not be going to Russia given they were part of Portugal’s greatest moment in football.
“It hurts not to be able to include all the players who were with us in the European Championship,” said Santos.
“They have all contributed to writing a brilliant chapter in the history of Portuguese football, but I had to make choices that for me make a better puzzle.”
Another notable exclusion is Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, with the 21-year-old missing out despite starting the March friendly against Egypt.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo will once again captain the team, while three Premier League players could feature in Russia – Man City’s Bernardo Silva, Leicester midfielder Adrien Silva and Cedric Soares of Southampton.
Inter Milan’s Joao Mario, who spent the second half of the season on loan at West Ham, makes the cut, along with experienced Rangers defender Bruno Alves.
Portugal only just sneaked through the group stages at Euro 2016 and will need to improve if they are to get out of Group B, having been drawn against Spain, Iran and Morocco.
Santos’ men are 2/1 to win the group with bet365.