Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed his return to fitness as Portugal completed their World Cup preparations with a comfortable victory over the Republic of Ireland.
The Portuguese captain, who had missed the earlier warm-up games against Greece and Mexico through a combination of knee and thigh injuries, started at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and played a leading role as his side raced into a 3-0 lead on their way to a 5-1 win.
Ronaldo had a hand in the third goal, having earlier hit the post with a free-kick, and showed few signs of being hampered by any fitness concerns.
However, it was striker Hugo Almeida who took centre-stage, heading Portugal into a second-minute lead and, after Richard Keogh's own goal had put them further ahead, claiming a second eight minutes before the interval.
James McClean's first strike for his country on his 23rd senior appearance gave the Republic hope seven minutes after the break, but substitute Vierinha struck 12 minutes from time and Fabio Coentrao added a fifth as newcomer Nani produced a superb late cameo performance.
While Portugal boss Paulo Bento included his highest-profile player for obvious reasons, opposite number Martin O'Neill left his sitting on the bench having hinted that he might in his pre-match press conference when he said he knew all he needed to about Robbie Keane.
World Cup 2014: Top 10 strikers
World Cup 2014: Top 10 strikers
1/10 Diego Costa - Spain
According to all reports, Chelsea have just about wrapped up the signing of Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid and what a player they have acquired. After going under the radar in Spanish football for several years, Costa exploded onto the world scene this year with his goal scoring form and dominating performances. He helped Atletico to their first La Liga title since 1996 and finishing runners up in the Champions League. The 25-year-old also brings Spain something they haven’t had for years, a bully. Costa is strong, powerful and direct, a change to the tiki-taka players for previous Spanish teams. He’ll be the catalyst if Spain are to make it two World Cups in a row.
2/10 Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal
If CR7 doesn’t regain full fitness in time for the World Cup not just Portugal will be in despair, the whole world will regret not seeing the best player on the planet on the biggest stage. His quality is seemingly boundless and is coming off another great season for Real Madrid. Portugal need him, perhaps more than any team needs one single player. If they are without their captain and talisman, Portugal may fail completely but with him, they could go all the way. Ronaldo has scored 50 plus goals in each of the past four seasons for Real, a frightening statistic and scored four times in Portugal’s play-off success over Sweden in qualifying. He is a true great and a World Cup success would establish him as a legend.
3/10 Wilfried Bony - Ivory Coast
With a stellar first season in the Premier League under his belt, the Ivory Coast will be hoping for big things from their strike force of Didier Drogba and Wilfried Bony. At Swansea, Bony scored 25 goals in all competitions last season, a superb return for his first season in England. With Drogba likely to call time on his international career after this summer, Bony will have to pick up the mantle of the Elephants’ main man up front. He’s started well with big goals in qualifying and the African Cup of Nations but to date all eight of his international goals have come against African teams, something he’ll need to change, starting, perhaps, with the Ivory Coast’s opening game against Japan.
4/10 Karim Benzema - France
France have had a dismal time of late when it comes to international tournaments. But, this time around, their squad seems much more settled, more together and with some real talent. Karim Benzema has only scored twice for France in past two years and has a chequered past with the national side but his form for Real Madrid last season should give him confidence to translate his good work onto the international level. He scored 17 league goals for Real last season, winning the Champions League and Copa del Rey and is a real superstar in the French squad. If he can keep his temper in check and get on with the rest of the team, France have the players to supply him for the goals he undoubtedly can get.
5/10 Sergio Aguero - Argentina
Among Argentina’s sea of stars is Manchester City’s Aguero. Angel Di Maria, Maxi Rodriguez, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi form an attacking force that is, perhaps, unrivalled by any in world football. Aguero is likely to start ahead of Higuain for the starting place up top but if the City man does find his best form in front of goal, he’s sure to help Argentina to the latter stages of the tournament. He scored five times in qualifying, including strikes against Colombia and Uruguay and comes off the back of 17 league goals for City despite only playing 23 games in a frustrating, injury hit campaign. Now, with his injuries hopefully behind him, he can once again get back to his devastating best and blow teams away starting with Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 15.
6/10 Luis Suarez - Uruguay
Another player we are all waiting on tenterhooks to see if he’ll take to the field is Liverpool’s main man Suarez. We all know him well, of course, as a wonderful mixture of sublime skill, great goals and headline making antics. For Uruguay, he is already their leading goal-scorer of all time and scored six times in qualifying. His PFA and FWA Player of the Year awards came off the back of a fantastic season for his club, scoring 31 league goals in 33 games. If he doesn’t regain fitness in time the World Cup will be missing one of its true stars and the footballing world (bar Group D opponents England) will miss him more. At 27 year's old he is in the prime of his career and, if fit, will light up Brazil.
7/10 Daniel Sturridge - England
While many fans and the media are questioning Wayne Rooney’s starting place for England, there’s another man waiting to make his impact on the world stage in Brazil. Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring in England’s warm-up victory over Peru in some style, curling in from 25 yards and that is exactly what Roy Hodgson and the country will be hoping to see much more of. Sturridge scored 21 league goals for Liverpool last season, finishing the league’s second highest scorer behind teammate Luis Suarez and being named in the PFA Team-of-the-Year. He gives England something different with his young, fresh arrogance and sheer ability. The Three Lions will need him in the goals if they are to make any impact in Brazil.
8/10 Jackson Martinez - Colombia
In the absence for Radamel Falcao, Martinez will take on the role as star striker for Colombia. Martinez has been working hard in Portugal for the past two seasons with Porto, finishing the league’s top-scorer two years in succession and earning plaudits from across the world. After Colombia were handed a relatively simple group, opinions for the country’s chances rose and if they can turn their free-flowing football into goals, they could go far and Martinez could end up top of the goal scoring tables. He bagged three in qualifying and has since scored a hat full of goals in friendly matches. One to look out for, that’s for sure.
9/10 Mario Mandzukic - Croatia
Group A seems to already be a fight for second place with Brazil surely bossing it. Croatia have the best chance of the other three teams in progressing to the next round and could well be a big surprise this summer. Mandzukic will benefit hugely from having the in-form and dynamic duo of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric behind him, who will supply him with chances he'll need to help the Croats make an impact. The 28-year-old scored 18 league goals last season for Bayern Munich, a club he is seemingly destined to leave this summer with Arsenal a possibility. He netted three times in qualifying and scored a vital goal in Croatia's play-off game against Iceland, a match he was also sent off in. He’s big, strong and has real quality and will be part of a Croatian team who could do well in Brazil.
10/10 Romelu Lukaku - Belgium
After two seasons banging in the goals on loan for West Brom and Everton, Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will surely give Lukaku the chance he deserves in their team next season. If not he must find pastures new to further his career once he returns from World Cup duty. Still just 21-years-old, Lukaku is on the verge of becoming a top player. He has the power, strength and skill needed to be considered a great and if he can show his quality on the biggest stage at the World Cup, he’ll be well on his way. He scored twice in qualifying, not a great return, but now, with Christian Benteke and Kevin Mirallas out injured, his country needs him to step up and get in the goals. Belgium are one team that many people expect big things from given the quality of their squad and the manner of their unbeaten qualification campaign.
Eight days short of 20 years since Ireland famously defeated Italy 1-0 in the World Cup finals at the old Giants Stadium, a team which included only a handful of regular starters ran out hoping to spring a similar surprise, if in different circumstances.
However, the game was over as a contest long before the half-time whistle as the Portuguese flexed their muscle in impressive style.
They needed barely two minutes to get their noses in front when winger Varela, in what was to become something of a theme, found himself in space down the right and delivered the perfect cross for unmarked striker Almeida to head firmly past goalkeeper David Forde.
Ronaldo had already served notice of his intent with a deft turn which took him away from Jeff Hendrick and David Meyler on halfway, although his scuffed shot had an element of rust about it.
But he tested Forde further with a left-footed drive 13 minutes later, and the Millwall keeper reacted superbly to deny Raul Meireles from the follow-up.
Ronaldo was warming to his task, although clearly unhappy with the playing surface after slipping on more than one occasion, and McClean could have been forgiven for thinking he had done just that with 18 minutes played when the Portugal captain hit the deck after the merest of contacts.
The Real Madrid star dusted himself down and curled the resulting free-kick around the wall and past Forde's dive, only for the foot of the post to intervene.
The respite was only temporary, however, and the Republic fell further behind when full-back Coentrao's cross clipped the unfortunate Keogh and sailed over the stranded Forde's head before dropping inside the far post.
Skipper for the night Jon Walters produced Ireland's first effort on target, but his 27th-minute header from McClean's cross was directed straight at keeper Rui Patricio.
But Portugal were cruising with playmaker William orchestrating from the middle of the field and Varela terrorising on the right as Ronaldo floated menacingly ahead of them.
They increased their lead eight minutes before the break when Forde could only parry Ronaldo's header from yet another Varela cross to Almeida, who made no mistake from close range.
Bento resisted the temptation to remove his star man from the fray at the break, but Ireland made a better fist of it in the early stages of the second half as wingers McClean and Aiden McGeady found themselves in advanced positions on several occasions.
They got their reward seven minutes into the half when Wes Hoolahan played a quick free-kick to McClean on the right side of the penalty area, and he stepped inside before dispatching a low left-footed shot past Patricio.
Portugal's response was concerted and, having wasted one free-kick by thumping it straight into the defensive wall, Ronaldo forced Forde into a diving save with a second on 57 minutes.
Varela could have wrapped up the win had he been able to collect Ronaldo's return pass after the pair launched a lightning break-out, but substitutes Nani and Vierinha combined in fine style on 78 minutes, and the former set up Coentrao for an exquisite fifth five minutes later as the Republic wilted.