Portugal coach Paulo Bento says his side need to "move on" following the shock exit of Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho just two days before his side take on Cyprus in a crucial UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier in Nicosia.
Portugal, on 10 points, currently top Norway and Denmark in Group H thanks to goal difference and need to secure maximum points against a Cyprus side who stunned them in a 4-4 draw when the two sides first met in September last year.
But it was the walkout of Carvalho which dominated the news conference proceedings on Thursday night with Bento, a former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon midfielder, claiming "he didn't know" the reasons behind the veteran's defender's exit. Carvalho, 33, had stormed out of training camp and announced he was quitting international football on the eve the game.
"Even though he is not here, we are still a squad of 22 good players. We have to move on and do our best. We have lots of other players in the squad who can help," said Bento. "Carvalho actually trained with us and it was only before we actually departed for Cyprus that we were informed that he wasn't coming with us."
Turning his attention to the game, Bento said: "We have come to take the three points which will keep us in pursuit of first place in the group. At one point we were fourth in the group and now we are first so that's a positive thing.
"Despite Carvalho's exit we still need to be ready to go and out there and win this game. We are totally prepared and ready as the players showed in training. The last time we played them we weren't careful."
Despite making headlines with their opening group game draw against Portugal, Cyprus has since lagged behind, picking up just one draw and two defeats. "The game against Portugal gives us great incentive to go out and win because they are a side of strength who are targeting first place in our group," said Greek coach Nikos Nioplias who will be making his official debut on Friday. "It is a game in which every player wants to play because you are only presented with one opportunity every year to match up against such quality opponents."
Carvalho on Wednesday attempted to explain the reason for his walkout. "I didn't intend to end my journey like this," explained Carvalho in a statement, where he complained of a "lack of respect" and said his "dignity had been hurt" but did not offer any further explanation.
"I'm just an athlete among my colleagues. However, like the others I also deserve consideration and respect," he added, in a text cited by Portuguese news agency Lusa.