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Fernando Santos confirms Pepe will face Uruguay after Danilo injury blow

Fernando Santos confirms Pepe will face Uruguay after Danilo injury blow

Portugal boss Fernando Santos has revealed that Pepe will come into the back four for Monday’s World Cup contest with Uruguay due to Danilo‘s injury blow.

Danilo started alongside Ruben Dias against Ghana on Thursday, but the former has been ruled out of his country’s last two Group H games against Uruguay and South Korea after suffering three fractured ribs during a training session.

Meanwhile, Otavio and Nuno Mendes are doubts for Monday’s clash with Uruguay, where a victory would send Santos’s side into the last-16 stage of the competition with a game to spare.

Portugal’s head coach has revealed that Pepe will replace Danilo despite the experience centre-back struggling with a knee injury in the opening months of the season.

Danilo Pereira in action for Portugal on September 27, 2022© Reuters

“It’s one of those incidents that nobody can really understand. We were working on set pieces, he was in the middle of a pack of players and suddenly he screamed out,” Santos told reporters.

“He took his time to catch his breath, but after a while he was breathing normally and it didn’t seem anything special. But he went to hospital to get checked over and we found out the type of injury he has [three fractured ribs]. Now we have to see how it goes.

“If we can use Danilo again in the World Cup all the better but it depends on how his recovery goes. But we have three centre-backs and other players who can play in that position.

“We are not going to make a drama out of it or cry about it. It’s football. We’re very disappointed, first and foremost for him. But Danilo is with us and he’ll stay with us. And perhaps the strength he transmits will give us a big boost to strive to offer him a present along with all the Portuguese.”

Benfica's Ruben Dias celebrates with Portugal teammate Pepe in the UEFA Nations League in October, 2018© Reuters

“Pepe will replace him. He will play and he’s ready, like he always is,” Santos said when asked who would replace Danilo in the middle of the defence.

The 39-year-old played the final three minutes of Porto’s league match with Boavista on November 12 before linking up with his country for the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Santos then confirmed that Otavio and Mendes would need to be assessed ahead of this match before a decision would be made on their involvement.

“When we leave this press conference we’ll have our training session and see how they are progressing. This morning they were still having treatment. We’ll see if they are apt and then we’ll make a decision,” said Santos.

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first men’s player to score in five World Cups when he found the back of the net in Portugal’s 3-2 success over Ghana in their tournament opener, while Joao Felix and Rafael Leao also registered for the European nation.

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