LISBON, Portugal — Cristiano Ronaldo will be able to stay at home in Turin when Portugal begins its World Cup qualifying program at a neutral venue in Italy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Portuguese soccer federation said Thursday its “home” game against Azerbaijan on March 24 was moved to the home of Juventus, Ronaldo’s club.
Portugal’s players, including several with Premier League clubs, face quarantine issues upon returning if they visit their home country. Portugal also has games at Serbia on March 27 and Luxembourg three days after that.
FIFA has extended an exemption of its mandatory release rules that allows clubs in some cases to refuse letting their players join up with national teams.
Portugal is the second of the 55 European national teams to move a home game to neutral ground. Norway decided last month to host Turkey on March 27 in Malaga, Spain.
In Asia, only three World Cup qualifiers are going ahead this month. Only six of the 40 teams still involved will play, with other games postponed to June because of current health protocols.