Ronaldo a doubt as Portugal prepare to face weakened Croatia

LISBON (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo is a doubt as Portugal start the defence of their Nations League title against Croatia on Sunday (2.45am Brunei time) in Porto and Sweden on Wednesday (2.45am Brunei time) in Solna.

Ronaldo is with the Portugal squad but has a toe infection and did not train on Wednesday or Thursday. He was instead doing “gym work”, the Portuguese football federation (FPF) said.

Ronaldo has 99 goals in 164 international matches but the FPF, which has closed its training camp to the press citing health protocols, gave no indication whether he will be fit for either game.

Ronaldo has not played since early August when Juventus were knocked out of the Champions League by Lyon.

At 35, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner scored 37 goals in all competitions last season, a record for a Juve player, and insists he remains ambitious, laying out his season ‘goals’ on Instagram last week.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. PHOTO: XINHUA

“Victories. Commitment. Dedication. Professionalism. With all my strength and with the precious help from my teammates and all of the Juventus staff, we work once again to conquer Italy, Europe and the World!” he wrote.

Portugal are returning to the city where as hosts they won the inaugural Nations League in June 2019, beating the Netherlands 1-0. Because Euro 2020 has been postponed a year, they also remain European champions.

In addition to Sweden, the four-team group also includes France.

While Ronaldo is with the national squad and could play, both Portugal and Croatia will be without other star players.

The FPF said that another member of the squad that won Euro 2016, Lille midfielder Renato Sanches, has been released from the squad for unspecified medical reasons.

Croatia, meanwhile, have excused Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic from international duties against Portugal and for a World Cup final rematch with France on Wednesday (2.45am Brunei time).