There is club versus country and then there is Real Madrid versus country. The row between the Spanish giants and Portugal over the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo concluded yesterday emphatically in the former's favour with the winger being ruled out of both legs of his country's World Cup play-off against Bosnia.
Real were always adamant that the former Manchester United winger would play no part and sent medical documents to the Portuguese federation to prove their case. Real insisted that he will not have properly recovered from his ankle injury for another two weeks and Jorge Valdano, the club's director general, has said that to play him now would be a "serious mistake".
Real initially insisted he be seen by Portuguese team doctors in Madrid, but eventually relented and allowed him to fly home. Last night the Portuguese Football Federation said in a statement that the doctors checked his fitness after he arrived in Lisbon yesterday and agreed with Real Madrid's diagnosis that the player was unfit.
Ronaldo first suffered the injury while playing for Real and aggravated it in Portugal's win over Hungary at the start of last month. An exasperated Carlos Queiroz, Portugal's coach, yesterday described the whole episode as hysterical.
"I want to put a full stop to this soap opera that has been created without any basis," he said at Portugal's training camp in Obidos. "The parties are fulfilling their obligations and that's what's important. I don't understand the hysteria in some sectors, about a situation that is normal."
The pick of Saturday's play-off games will be in Dublin, where Ireland host France and the visitors are preparing for a raucous reception. Patrice Evra told L'Equipe that John O'Shea, his Manchester United team-mate, had promised him "hell at Croke Park".
"It is a pleasure to play in a stadium with a heated atmosphere," said Alou Diarra yesterday of the expected 82,300 crowd. "We have a lot of respect for this team but we do not fear them."
The Seville defender Julien Escude said France would not be intimidated. "The outcome of the game can hang on an exchange of looks, attitudes," he said. "We must tell ourselves that we will not lose, that nothing will happen to us because we will be fully prepared. We must feel that we don't fear anything"
Diego Maradona will face a Fifa disciplinary hearing this weekend into his bizarre tirade in the wake of Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Uruguay that saw them reach the finals. He faces a possible touchline ban.Reuse content