European qualifying

Ronaldo to travel to Azerbaijan

March 25, 2013
By Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo is travelling to Azerbaijan with the rest of the squad for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier even though he is suspended for the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after creating Helder Postiga's goal
GettyImagesCristiano Ronaldo celebrates after creating Helder Postiga's goal

Real Madrid attacker Ronaldo played all 90 minutes of Portugal's dramatic 3-3 draw in Israel on Friday, when he laid on his side's second goal for Helder Postiga, but also picked up a second yellow card of the qualifiers, ruling him out of the game in Baku.

This opened up the possibility of an early return to Madrid to prepare for Saturday's upcoming La Liga game at Real Zaragoza and then Champions League quarter-final first leg against Galatasaray at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 3, but Ronaldo says he is remaining with his national squad to support his team-mates from the sidelines.

"I am here in body and soul," he told the Portuguese FA's website. "On Tuesday I will support my teammates so that we can play a good game and win. I feel unhappy about not being able to help them out on the pitch, but I will do it from the sidelines."

Portugal are currently third in Group F, level on points with second-placed Israel, but four behind leaders Russia, who have played a game less.

Ronaldo said that missing the game was frustrating, but he had decided against returning early to club matters.

"In the last game I picked up a yellow card which left me pretty unhappy," he said. "I believe my presence here is important. The easiest thing would have been to return to my club, but I said I wanted to stay. I like being here and I believe my contribution, even without playing, is important for the national team and my team-mates and friends."