FIFA World Cup: Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the Portuguese 26-man squad in Qatar

Cristiano Ronaldo will lead Portugal to the World Cup after Fernando Santos named the striker in his 26-man squad on Thursday. The Manchester United striker, 37, is not first choice for his club this season but will be part of his country's bid to win the competition for the first time in their history. Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in international football with 117 goals, has many young teammates supporting him in the fight, including Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix and AC Milan's Rafael Leao.

"All the players I have called are hungry to win and make Portugal world champions, including Ronaldo," said Santos. Ronaldo will be in his fifth World Cup, having played for his country in every edition of the tournament since 2006.

The manager, who led Portugal to Euro 2016 glory in France, left Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Renato Sanches out of the squad, bringing in Wolves midfielder Matheus instead of Nunes. "The most important thing is the players who will go to the World Cup," said Santos, refusing to comment on the players who were not selected.

"The 26 (elected) think that justice has been done, and those who have not done it, those who are not."

Santos called up Benfica's uncapped central defender Antonio Silva, 19, and Pepe, 39. The Porto defender has not played since October 4 with a broken knee but will be fit for the tournament in Qatar, which starts on November 20.

"I asked my medical department if there are unfit players, the answer is no," Santos said of Pepe. Liverpool striker Diogo Jota has a calf injury.

Wolves striker Joao Moutinho, 36, who has played for his country 146 times, more than anyone other than Ronaldo, did not join him, nor did his team-mate Goncalo Guedes. Portugal open their World Cup campaign in Group H against Ghana on November 24, before facing Uruguay on November 28 and South Korea on December 2.

Santos criticized the scheduling of the tournament, the first winter World Cup, but accepted the lack of travel in the tournament, where all the games are close to each other. "It's not good for the club, it's not good for anybody," Santos said.

"The exception is that it's good for travel. I participated in many world cups and traveling between games was difficult.

"In this respect, there are benefits. There is no stadium more than 25 minutes away. We don't have to go around carrying everything. It won't make us tired, the game is over and we go back to the hotel."

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (Porto), Rui Patricio (Roma/ITA), Jose Sa (Wolverhampton/ENG)

Defenders: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United/ENG), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City/ENG), Danilo Pereira (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Pepe (Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City/ENG), Antonio Silva (Benfica), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/GER)

Midfielders:Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton/ENG), Joao Palhinha (Fulham/ENG), William Carvalho (Real Betis/ESP), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United/ENG), Vitinha (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Otavio (Porto), Joao Mario (Benfica), Matheus Nunes (Wolverhampton/ENG), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/ENG)

Forwards: Rafael Leao (AC Milan/ITA), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Ricardo Horta (Braga), Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United/ENG), Andre Silva (RB Leipzig/GER)