2014 World Cup

Fifa World Cup 2014

Ronaldo's struggle with fitness hampers Portugal's preparation

An ice pack on his left knee raises concerns ahead of their crucial clash against the United States but his teammates insist that he is fully fit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2014, 11:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2014, 11:33pm

Lingering doubts about the fitness of world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo have left Portugal in disarray ahead of their group G clash with the United States in Manaus.

Already reeling from a crushing 4-0 defeat to Germany in their opener, Portugal face almost certain elimination if they lose to US.

And their preparations could not get much worse.

Although the Portugal camp insist the Real Madrid forward is fit, Ronaldo has been seen sporting an ice pack on his knee at training sessions and leaving early as his teammates continued to train, while he was far from his best against the Germans.

I personally think that the Cristiano Ronaldo talk is a bit too much so I imagine how he must be feeling about that
Portugal forward Helder Postiga

Much media speculation has focused on whether or not he will play against the US, or indeed if he does, whether or not he will be fully fit. But fellow forward Helder Postiga was adamant that too much is being read into an ice pack.

"I personally think that the Cristiano Ronaldo talk is a bit too much so I imagine how he must be feeling about that," Postiga said.

"But regarding his physical condition, he's been training at his maximum and if it's not listed in the clinical information of the Portuguese [football] federation it's because he's fit to play."

But Ronaldo is just one of Portugal's problems as they will be missing several other players.

Real centre back Pepe has been suspended for one match after his needless red card against Germany for headbutting Thomas Muller, who went on to score a hat-trick. Given his volatile nature, that may be a blessing in disguise in a tournament where one error can prove costly.

Fabio Coentrao has been ruled out of the tournament with a torn thigh muscle while forward Hugo Almeida has a pulled hamstring and reserve goalkeeper Rui Patricio pulled a thigh muscle.

It is hardly the ideal preparation to face the buoyant US, who began their campaign with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ghana, avenging defeats to the Black Stars at the past two World Cups.

Yet Portugal coach Paulo Bento believes that his side are simply better than their opponents.

"The best version of Portugal can beat the United States. We respect the USA as a very good team," he said.

"They have grown up over the last years so we have to respect them but we believe in ourselves, we believe in our work, in our quality, so we have to be responsible, we have to be in the best condition to win this match and we believe it."

The US are not without problems of their own as striker Jozy Altidore is out of the game with a hamstring injury, although US Soccer believe he could be available later in the tournament.

There is better news when it comes to Clint Dempsey, the opening goalscorer against Ghana who broke his nose in that match.

He is likely to line up against Portugal wearing a protective face mask.

Centre back Matt Besler, who had a hamstring problem against Ghana, should be fit to play.