Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo insists that he has not given up on his World Cup ambitions but admits that his ‘average’ team are not good enough to compete with the top teams.
29-year-old Ronaldo enjoyed another outstanding campaign with Real Madrid, culminating in a Champions League victory over neighbours Ateltico Madrid in which Ronaldo scored from the spot to rack up his 54th goal of the season in 51 appearances in all competitions for Los Blancos.
Ronaldo’s exceptional form saw him capture the Ballon D’or in January ahead of Barcelona rival Lionel Messi and the Portuguese looked set to take centre stage at the World Cup alongside the likes of Messi and Neymar.
However, the former Manchester United forward had been in and out of the Carlo Ancelotti’s team towards the back end of the season after struggling with a knee injury and there had been doubts over how big a part, if any, Ronaldo would play in his country’s efforts in Brazil.
Despite constant speculation throughout the tournament, Ronaldo has featured in both of his side's games. The lethal frontman has lasted the full 90 minutes on both occasions but has never possessed his usual threat and has looked short of the player that can, and so often does, destroy teams on such a regular basis.
Ronaldo refuses to take the easy way out and blame his injury struggles for his performances and insists he is determined to keep trying until the end for his country:
"I’m here, I’m fighting, I’m trying to do my best, I’m running and obviously it’s no use talking about my issues," said Ronaldo.
“I don’t want to justify myself by talking about my physical problems, that’s water under the bridge.”
“Every day there’s something new in the papers about my knee and about this and that. That’s why I don’t want to justify myself. I’m here in body and soul to help the national team.”
Portugal find themselves in need of a miracle to progress from Group G after a crushing 4-0 defeat to Germany in their first game, in which they were hindered by the sending off of experienced centre half Pepe, and a 2-2 draw rescued in the last minute against the USA thanks to an inch perfect cross from the Madeira-born star to set up Silvestre Varela.
Captain Ronaldo admits that Paulo Bento’s men are simply not good enough to compete with the World’s biggest and best nations:
"Maybe we are an average team," he added.
“‘It would be a lie to say that we are a top team. We have a very limited team and we are not at the best level.”
“This does not enable you to beat top teams. There are no miracles. We knew we would have a tough group, with perhaps teams better than us. I am not a hypocrite — I never thought we could be world champions, we have to be humble and know our level.”
The admissions are hardly shocking as Portugal look devoid of any kind of inspiration and their tactics seem based largely around getting the ball to Ronaldo. Outside of Ronaldo there aren’t any players to give the opposition sleepless nights, a situation demonstrated by Manchester United outcast Nani’s regular inclusion in Bento’s starting xi.
At 29, the tournament probably represented Ronaldo’s last World Cup at the peak of his powers and the Sporting Lisbon academy graduate will be desperate to sign off in style against Ghana and give his supporters something to shout about.
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