Unfortunately, due to the extremely tough qualification campaign that African nations have to go through, only one of these two teams will be at the World Cup. Nigeria made it all the way to the final stage of qualifying but lost to West Africa rivals Ghana on away goals after a 1-1 draw in their second leg. So instead of travelling to Qatar they have been used as a preparation side for World Cup teams.
First, Nigeria travelled to Costa Rica and lost 2-0, and now they make the trip to Portugal to face the European hopefuls. As a result a lot of the big names haven’t been included in this squad, though the likes of Calvin Bassey, Wilfred Ndidi and Ademola Lookman are involved.
Portugal, on the other hand, are using Nigeria to prepare for the World Cup and they open their campaign in Qatar against the Super Eagles’ rivals Ghana on November 24. Placed in a tough group alongside Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea, Portugal aren’t guaranteed a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup so will want to take momentum into the tournament, especially after recent defeats to Switzerland and Spain in the Uefa Nations League.
But there may be some distraction among the squad, as Cristiano Ronaldo comes unhappy with the way things are going at his club. After Manchester United failed to qualify for the Champions League, Ronaldo expressed his desire to leave in the summer but a move failed to materialise. Rather than being thrown immediately into the starting XI under Erik ten Hag, Ronaldo was made to wait for his opportunity and despite making 16 appearances across all competitions he has amassed just over 1,000 minutes of action – with half of that coming in the Europa League.
Ronaldo was left out of Man Utd’s squad for their past two matches and has now revealed he has no respect for Ten Hag.
“Yes, not only the coach, but another two or three guys around the club. I felt betrayed,” Ronaldo told Piers Morgan when asked if Man Utd were trying to force him out of the club, in an interview set to be released in full on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I don’t care. People should listen to the truth,” he continued when asked again.
“Yes I felt betrayed and I felt like some people don’t want me here, not only this year but last year too.”
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Of Ten Hag, Ronaldo said: “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t show respect for me. If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”
Ronaldo did not stop there either. The Portuguese forward also criticised the club’s owners for showing a lack of progress since he left the club in 2009, and especially after Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
“I don’t know what is going on but since Sir Alex Ferguson left I saw no evolution in the club, the progress was zero,” he added.
“For example, we have an interesting point that how the club as Manchester United after (they) sack Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer), they buy – they bring (in), sports director Ralf Rangnick, which is something that nobody understands.
“This guy is not even a coach. A bigger club like Manchester United brings (a) sports director – surprised not only me but all the world, you know.
“Nothing changed. Surprisingly. Not only the pool, the jacuzzi, even the gym … Even some points, the technology, the kitchen, the chefs, which is, I appreciate, lovely persons.
“They stopped in a time, which surprised me a lot. I thought I will see different things … different, as I mentioned before, technology, infrastructure. But unfortunately, we see many things that I used to see when I was 20, 21, 23. So, it surprised me a lot.”
Man Utd have since responded with a statement which read: “Manchester United notes the media coverage regarding an interview by Cristiano Ronaldo.
“The club will consider its response after the full facts have been established. Our focus remains on preparing for the second half of the season and continuing the momentum, belief and togetherness being built among the players, manager, staff, and fans.”
Portugal vs Nigeria match stats
So all eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo on Thursday night but that is when he thrives. The Portuguese forward will be eager to put himself in the shop window ahead of January and he can also extend his record as the best international goalscorer in men’s football history. Ronaldo’s current record reads 191 games and 117 goals scored, eight more than second-placed Ali Daei.
At the other end of the pitch, Portugal kept three clean sheets in their six Uefa Nations League matches, while the top scorer in Nigeria’s current squad is Alex Iwobi with 10 goals.