United States vs Portugal match preview World Cup 2014: The time is now for Cristiano Ronaldo

The world's best player must deliver against the USA

For the world’s best player, the time is now. If ever Portugal needed Cristiano Ronaldo, it will be in the Amazon against the United States, the team that were supposed to be the makeweights of Group D but who will go through with a victory in Manaus tonight.

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Given the deficiencies in Paulo Bento’s defence, missing the suspended Pepe at centre-half and the injured Fabio Coentrao, whose thigh injury will prevent him playing any further part in this tournament, the Portugal manager will need Ronaldo to inspire his countrymen as Luis Suarez inspired Uruguay to victory over England. Bento may also have to do without his first-choice keeper, Rui Patricio, who was also injured in the disastrous 4-0 defeat by Germany.

Ronaldo was not fully fit during the rout in Salvador and he is not fully fit now. Given that Portugal realistically have to win to have any chance of qualifying, Bento has no option but to play him, although there were signs that the squad is becoming slightly irritated by the level of coverage surrounding Ronaldo’s fitness.

“I personally think all the talk about Cristiano has become far too much, so I can only imagine how he is feeling about that,” said the Portugal striker, Helder Postiga.  “He is training with us, he is doing all the exercises and performing them to his maximum.”

Having been a part of the Portugal side that conceded two own-goals to the Americans during a disastrous World Cup game in Suwon a dozen years ago, Bento will not underestimate the United States.

Victory in Manaus will see Jurgen Klinsmann’s team qualify for the knockout phase. Should they draw, they will go through unless they are beaten by Germany in the final group game in Recife and there is a positive result between Ghana and Portugal. 

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