Alamy Stock Photo Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (file pic).
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'I do not look at the age' - Martinez defends Ronaldo call-up
The 38-year-old ‘is very important for the team,’ the Spanish coach stressed.

CRISTIANO RONALDO was on Friday included in the first Portugal squad announced by new coach Roberto Martinez, for Euro 2024 qualifying matches against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

The 38-year-old “is very important for the team,” the Spanish coach stressed during a press conference in which he unveiled his squad of 26.

“I do not look at the age,” said Martinez.

Portugal will face Liechtenstein on 23 March in Lisbon before travelling to Luxembourg on 26 March.

Martinez said his first squad “is important because it is the starting point” for Euro 2024.

Ronaldo, whose international career began in August 2003 in a friendly against Kazakhstan, holds the world record for men’s international goals with 118.

History suggests that, if he returns to the starting line-up, he will boost his total in the next two matches, at least against Luxembourg.

Portugal have played Liechtenstein seven times, winning six and drawing one, a World Cup qualifier in 2004 which Ronaldo started but did not finish. They have outscored Liechtenstein 35-3 but Ronaldo has never scored against the Principality.

Portugal have faced Luxembourg 19 times, winning 17 and losing just one, outscoring them 59-8. Ronaldo has hit nine of those, his most against any international team.

Ronaldo has represented Portugal in every international competition since Euro 2004, collecting a European championship winners’ medal in 2016.

His quest to add a World Cup medal in Qatar last year, started well as he became the first player to score in five editions when he converted a penalty in a win against Ghana.

But he was left out of the starting line-up for the last-16 clash as Portugal ripped Switzerland apart.

When Portugal lost to Morocco in the quarter-finals, he started on the bench and ended the tournament in tears.

Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman opted to make few significant changes as he named the first squad of his second spell as Netherlands coach on Friday.

The Dutch, who have been drawn in the same group as Stephen Kenny’s Ireland, take on France in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier next Friday in Paris before hosting Gibraltar in Rotterdam three days later.

Former Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum is back in the international fold for the first time since suffering a broken leg in training with Roma in August.

Koeman returned as Dutch coach after Louis van Gaal’s third stint as boss came to an end following the World Cup in Qatar, where the Netherlands lost to Argentina in the quarter-finals.

Koeman has recalled experienced goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen after he was left out of the World Cup squad, with Andries Noppert and Justin Bijlow both out injured.

Full-back Daley Blind is in line to win his 100th cap against France.

Portugal squad:

Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (Porto), Jose Sa (Wolves/ENG), Rui Patricio (Roma/ITA)

Defenders: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United/ENG), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City/ENG), Danilo Pereira (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Pepe (Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City/ENG), Antonio Silva (Benfica), Goncalo Inacio (Sporting Lisbon), Diogo Leite (Union Berlin/GER), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/GER)

Midfielders: Joao Palhinha (Fulham/ENG), Ruben Neves (Wolves/ENG), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/ENG), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United/ENG), Joao Mario (Benfica), Matheus Nunes (Wolves/ENG), Otavio Monteiro (Porto), Vitinha (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Al Nassr/KSA), Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Joao Felix (Chelsea/ENG), Rafael Leao (AC Milan/ITA), Diogo Jota (Liverpool/ENG)

Netherlands squad:

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (NEC Nijmegen), Mark Flekken (Freiburg/GER), Bart Verbruggen (Anderlecht/BEL)

Defenders: Nathan Ake (Manchester City/ENG), Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind (Bayern Munich/GER), Sven Botman (Newcastle/ENG), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/ENG), Denzel Dumfries (Inter Milan/ITA), Lutsharel Geertruida (Feyenoord), Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United/ENG), Jurrien Timber (Ajax)

Midfielders: Kenneth Taylor, Steven Berghuis, Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona/ESP), Marten de Roon (Atalanta/ITA), Xavi Simons (PSV Eindhoven), Mats Wieffer (Feyenoord), Georginio Wijnaldum (Roma/ITA)

Forwards: Steven Bergwijn, Brian Brobbey (Ajax), Memphis Depay (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Cody Gakpo (Liverpool/ENG), Wout Weghorst (Manchester United/ENG)

– © AFP 2023

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