Portugal will have its star striker on the field Sunday against the United States.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal still have a chance to reach the second round at the World Cup. Without him, the advantage might just switch to the United States.
Ronaldo has been carrying an injury to his left knee, and the World Player of the Year was seen using an ice pack on it during training on Wednesday. But he is still expected to play against the Americans today at the Arena da Amazonia in a match that Portugal can’t afford to lose.
“Cristiano played the last game,” midfielder Raul Meireles said, via ESPN. “He trains every day with all of us. Cristiano is fit to play, that’s all I can say.”
Ronaldo has been one of the best players in the world for about a decade, and last year he even surpassed Lionel Messi by ending the Argentina forward’s streak of winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
He has also excelled on the world stage, helping Portugal reach the 2004 European Championship final and the 2006 World Cup semi-finals. The team also advanced out of the group stage at both Euro 2008 and the last World Cup, and then reached the semi-finals at Euro 2012.
Ronaldo’s inclusion in the lineup is a good sign for Portugal, but the road to the knockout stage will not be an easy one. Portugal was crushed by Germany 4-0 in its first match and will be without at least four players for the game against the United States. Pepe — one of Portugal’s top defenders — will sit out because of a red card he took against Germany.
Bento had to make multiple lineup changes, but he said those playing against the U.S. will be ready to go.
“The players know who will be playing, they know what they have to do and they know what the opponent does,” Bento said.
Portugal needs to at least earn one point to have a chance at advancing to the next round. The U.S. can clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.