Portugal patches up defense for WCup qualifiers

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LISBON, Portugal (AP)

Andre Almeida and Cedric Soares received their first call-ups for Portugal on Friday as coach Paulo Bento seeks to plug defensive gaps for the team's last two must-win World Cup qualifiers.

Right back Joao Pereira is unavailable with a leg muscle strain, and left back Fabio Coentrao is suspended for the match against Israel next Friday in Lisbon. The Portuguese face Luxembourg four days later in Coimbra.

Striker Helder Postiga is also suspended for the Israel game but, like Coentrao, he is expected to return against Luxembourg.

The 2012 European Championship semifinalists need to keep up the pressure on Russia, which leads Europe Group F. The Portuguese are a point behind, with Israel in third place six points off the pace.

If the Russians hold onto their lead, Portugal hopes to reach next year's tournament in Brazil through the playoffs.

Defender Miguel Lopes and striker Vieirinha are also out with injuries.



Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Sevilla).

Defenders: Cedric Soares (Sporting), Andre Almeida (Benfica), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Luis Neto (Zenit St. Petersburg), Antunes (Malaga), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Pepe (Real Madrid).

Midfielders: Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Josue Pesqueira (FC Porto), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Ruben Micael (Braga), Andre Martins (Sporting).

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Danny (Zenit St. Petersburg), Nani (Manchester United), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Helder Postiga (Sevilla), Nelson Oliveira (Rennes), Varela (FC Porto), Eder (Braga).

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