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Football | Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo © Action Images

Bento defends Ronaldo, Gabon trip



Portugal coach Paulo Bento has defended the absence of the side's star turn Cristiano Ronaldo as well as the financial aspect of their friendly against Gabon.

Bento, speaking in Libreville on the eve of Wednesday's game, railed at a suggestion Ronaldo's no-show may not be for entirely sporting reasons despite the Real Madrid star having picked up a nasty gash to his head in a game at the weekend.

"If you don't tell me who is suspecting Ronaldo I can't reply to you becaue I can't imagine that anyone is questioning him," Bento replied to the journalist who posed the question.

"You've seen his (Ronaldo's) eye and the medical report. He wasn't able to travel."

Turning to criticism of Portugal's decision to visit Libreville Bento said: "We are here on serious business. Don't make any mistake - this game has a sporting aspect and an economic aspect, as is the case with big sides."

He continued: "Portugal were invited to play in Gabon due to everything that the Portuguese players have achieved over the years, for having made it to the major finals and for having played well in the big competitions.

"Spain are in Panama, Argentina are in Saudi Arabia...this game too is based on commercial, financial logic."

The financial carrot Gabon used to entice Portugal, who reached the Euro 2012 semifinals but have suffered a slump in form since and were held to a 1-1 draw at home by minnows Northern Ireland in their World Cup qualifier last month, to Libreville has not been made public.

The Portuguese are following in the footsteps of Brazil, the five-time world champions and 2014 World Cup hosts who came to Gabon to add lustre to the inauguration of the Stade l'Amitie which was used for the final of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations which Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea.

Ronaldo's absence meanwhile is mirrored on the Gabonese side by the withdrawal of their star player, Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang, who scored his eighth goal of the season for Saint Etienne in Ligue 1 at the weekend.

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