Portugal hosts Italy on Monday, Sept. 10 at the Estadio do Sport in Lisbon in the UEFA Nations League. Here’s what to know before you watch.
In their first game since the World Cup, Portugal make their UEFA Nations League debut on Monday at home against Italy.
Portugal, the defending European champions, are coming off this summer’s elimination by Uruguay 2-1 in the round of 16 at the World Cup in Russia. The Italians, who missed out on the World Cup after failing to qualify for the first time since 1958, are in rebuilding mode after Roberto Mancini was named manager three months ago.
Portugal will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, who made headlines in July after signing with Juventus. The Portugal captain requested he not be called up, saying he wasn’t fully fit.
“After talking to the player, and after he moved to Juventus with all the processes of adaptation that entails, we understand it was best for him to not be present for these games,” coach Fernando Santos told reporters.
As a result, Santos is relying on a younger squad, calling up 21-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanchez, who only has 13 caps at senior international level.
Despite the new level of competitiveness the Nations League hopes to bring to international competition, Santos was not shy about experimenting with new players. Other new faces called up by for the match includes goalkeeper Claudio Ramos, defender defender Pedro Mendes, as well as midfielders Gedson Fernandes and Sergio Oliveira. All four are looking for their first senior cap.
The Italians are also experimenting with new faces as Mancini starts the rebuilding process with the four-time World Cup winners. The newcomers on the team include goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, defender Cristiano Biraghi and striker Pietro Pellegri.
While all three have played at youth level with the Under-19 and U-21 teams, they are uncapped at senior level. Pellegri will have to wait for his first cap after he was forced to leave training camp early after the 17 year old suffered an injury in training.
In the latest FIFA rankings released last month, Portugal are seventh overall. Italy are ranked 21st overall.
The UEFA Nations League match between Portugal and Italy will be broadcast live on ESPN+, which you can access with your cable or satellite subscriptions, either online or through the ESPN app.
Portugal, Italy and Poland are all in Group D of the newly-formed UEFA Nations League. The tournament was created as a way to cut down on meaningless friendlies during FIFA-mandated international fixture dates that don’t include World Cup or European Championship qualification.
Italy and Portugal have played each other 25 times. The Italians hold the overall edge with a 18-2-5 record. In their last meeting, Portugal defeated Italy 1-0 on June 16, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.