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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Portugal World Cup camp quiet on mounting Sporting Lisbon crisis

William Carvalho, Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes, as well as Dutch striker Bas Dost, filed notice with Portuguese authorities on Monday to say they were breaking their contracts with Sporting, claiming "just cause"

Portugal midfielder Joao Mario deflected questions on the crisis engulfing Sporting Lisbon that has seen four players at the World Cup rescind their contracts with the troubled club.

William Carvalho, Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes, as well as Dutch striker Bas Dost, all filed notice with Portuguese authorities on Monday to say they were breaking their contracts with Sporting, claiming "just cause".

Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio had already walked out of the club before flying to Russia amid the fallout from last month's horrific gang attack on players and coaches.

"Everything that has to do with questions not related to our national team are not going to be discussed because we are all focused on our games for Portugal and the match with Spain," Mario told reporters at the team's base camp on the outskirts of Moscow.

"It's not a question that should be raised now, we are focused on the game against Spain," added the former Sporting midfielder, who spent the second half of last season on loan at West Ham United from Inter Milan.

"Everything that doesn't have to do with the World Cup should be postponed until later."

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Read more on the 2018 World Cup:

Lowdown: Podcasts, predictions, galleries and where to watch in UAE

Group B guide: Ronaldo's last chance to win the big one with Portugal

In pictures: World Cup 2018 home kits ranked

Golden Boot: 10 contenders beyond Messi and Ronaldo

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Several first-team players were attacked on May 15 by disgruntled fans wearing balaclavas after they invaded the club's training complex at Alcochete, outside Lisbon.

The supporters broke into the training complex, vandalised the dressing rooms, threatened back-room staff and assaulted players and coaching staff.

In total, 23 fans were arrested and face charges relating to the incident.

In April, outspoken president Bruno de Carvalho harshly criticised his team's performance against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League, and pointed out mistakes by individual players on social media.

The players responded by posting a joint statement defending their commitment to the club and questioning the manners of De Carvalho, saying he should support them as their "leader".

There were recent reports – all unconfirmed – blaming De Carvalho for the attacks by fans on the players and coaches. The president, who reportedly used to belong to a radical fan group, denied the accusations.

Mario was keen to steer the attention towards Portugal's opening Group B match against Spain on Friday in Sochi, with the winner in pole position to finish top of a section also including Morocco and Iran.

"It's always a special moment [playing Spain], we've faced each other many times," he said. "Both sides are very well disciplined and both have very experienced players, players who have been around for a long time."

"Portugal and Spain can't be compared on the same level because Spain has a rich football history, although we have done well lately, too," he added.

"We cannot compare ourselves to Brazil or Germany, but we'll do everything we can to go as far as we can."

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