Football

Portugal boss defends ageing squad after Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick sinks Luxembourg

Portugal, inspired by a Cristiano Ronaldo treble, remained in pursuit of the Group A lead with a crushing victory over Luxembourg.

Portugal, inspired by a Cristiano Ronaldo treble, remained in pursuit of the Group A lead with a crushing victory over Luxembourg.

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos jumped to the defence of his experienced side after they cruised past Luxembourg 5-0 in their World Cup qualifier thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s 58th career hat-trick and 10th international treble put hosts Portugal out of sight at the Estadio Algarve, where Joao Palhinha and Bruno Fernandes also got on the scoresheet on Tuesday.

The five-goal crushing left Portugal a point behind Group A leaders Serbia, albeit with a game in hand, with two matches remaining and the top two teams meet on the final matchday, in what is likely to be a winner-takes-all decider.

However, Santos’ focus after the game was on the age of his squad as he quashed suggestions that his veterans were likely to let him down again, after exiting both the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage.

“I hear a lot about it [the age of the squad], I even understand, but more changes than what we have been done over the past six years are difficult,” Santos told reporters during his post-match his news conference, with set to be 37 heading into next year’s World Cup.

“Just look at who was at the World [Cup], the European Championship and who is playing now. There are no age restrictions, it doesn’t even make sense.

“Players do not have to stop playing for the national team because they are of more or less age, quality is what counts.

“Fortunately, we have a lot of 30-year-old or 31-year-old players able to get here and play and the players have shown that [quality].”

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