LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal coach Paulo Bento says he wants next week's friendly against Ecuador to spark a return to form for the Euro 2012 semifinalist after a string of poor results.
Following a 1-0 defeat in Russia and a 1-1 home draw against Northern Ireland in its last two World Cup qualifying games, Portugal is five points behind top-placed Russia in Group F. Portugal was also held to 2-2 by Gabon in November.
Bento says he wants to "make the most of this chance to play as well as we can (and) improve some aspects of our game."
Bento made five changes on Friday from the squad chosen for the Gabon game. He handed Valladolid defender Henrique Sereno his first call-up. Zenit St. Petersburg striker Danny also returns from a long injury layoff, but Portugal will be without injured Real Madrid centerback Pepe.
Portugal hosts Ecuador in Guimaraes on Wednesday.
Defenders: Joao Pereira (Valencia), Miguel Lopes (Sporting Lisbon), Bruno Alves (Zenit St. Petersburg), Henrique Sereno (Valladolid), Luis Neto (Siena), Henrique Sereno (Valladolid), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Valencia).