Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo believes Spain, Brazil and Germany are the favourites to win next year’s World Cup in Brazil and is keen to avoid all three in today’s draw for the group stages.
The Real Madrid forward ensured his country will be represented next summer with a stunning individual performance as he scored all four goals in Portugal’s 4-2 aggregate play-off win over Sweden last month.
However, having been eliminated by Spain in each of the past two major tournaments, he is keen to avoid some of his club team-mates along with Brazil and three-time winners Germany in the early stages.
“The candidates to win the World Cup are Brazil, Spain and Germany. Ideally it is not a good moment to be drawn with them, but we are not thinking about that just now,” he told Spanish sports daily Marca.
“We will see what the draw presents us with. We are confident, in good shape and we have achieved our objective of getting to Brazil. Hopefully we will not be drawn with any of these really strong teams from the start.”
Ronaldo has paid slightly for his efforts in the match against Sweden as he has missed Real’s past two games due to a small muscle problem.
However, Madrid have continued their rampant form of late even without their star man as Gareth Bale took centre stage with his first hat-trick since joining the Spanish giants in a 4-0 win over Valladolid last weekend.
The treble took Bale’s tally to eight goals in his past seven games, while he also teed up Karim Benzema for Real Madrid’s other goal to add his sixth assist of the campaign.
Ronaldo has praised Bale’s outstanding form since returning from a number of niggling injuries that blighted his start to life in the Spanish capital.
“Gareth has played very well in these games. His adaption (sic) has been phenomenal and he is playing at a very high level.”
Ronaldo also praised Xabi Alonso as his return to the side has coincided with a seven-game unbeaten run for Madrid in all competitions in which they have scored 30 goals.
“The return of Xabi Alonso has been very important for the team. The defence, for their part, has been incredible and the goalkeeper too.”
Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has echoed Ronaldo’s views on Alonso’s importance to the side and is hoping that the former Liverpool player will soon put pen to paper on a new contract, with his current contract set to expire next summer.
“I can say that Alonso is a key man. He is a very important player and he has incredible quality and experience. His return was very good for the team,” Ancelotti told esRadio.
“I am not worried because everyone knows how important he is. The club is talking with him about renewing his contract. I hope that he is happy here and that he renews.”
The 20th football World Cup is set to take place next year in 12 Brazilian cities, each with its own World Cup stadium. The first six stadiums were ready for the Confederations Cup in June, and construction work on the remaining six was due to be completed by the end of this month.
However, construction delays mean that two stadiums — in Curitiba and Sao Paulo — will probably not be delivered until late February. Local organisers said two of the stadiums — in Natal and Manaus — should be ready by the end of the year and another two —-in Porto Alegre and Cuiaba — next month.
World governing body Fifa has been told all stadiums will be ready in time for the World Cup from June 12 to July 13.
The Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo — where the opening World Cup game will be played — has been further delayed by last week’s construction site accident in which two workers were killed. Fifa is awaiting an investigatory report into the accident.