Injured Pepe out of Portugal's World Cup qualifiers

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BELGRADE (Reuters) - Portugal central defender Pepe will miss their opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers after picking up an injury playing for his club Porto, the country's football association (FPF) has said.

"The FPF medical staff has deemed Pepe unfit to play against Azerbaijan on March 24, Serbia on March 27 and Luxembourg three days later," the country's soccer governing body said on its website.

"Sporting centre back Luis Neto has been called up to replace Pepe."

Pepe, 38, limped off midway through the first half in second-placed Porto's 2-1 Primeira Liga win at Portimonense on Saturday which kept them 10 points behind Sporting.

European champions Portugal will play their home game against Azerbaijan in Turin before they visit Serbia and Luxembourg. Ireland are the other team in Group A.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)