As the teams continue to prepare for the opening games for Group G in the FIFA World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo made an early exit from Portugal’s training session yesterday. Concern immediately arose that the Portuguese star’s tendinosus may not be as cleared up as thought after the performance Ronaldo gave on the pitch against Ireland.
Ronaldo left about 20 minutes into the practice session before the team began strenuous ball workouts. This may have just been a decision to keep the best player in the world healthy prior to the opening game against Germany. Portugal knows that as long as Ronaldo is on the pitch and able to play, the team has a very good chance against the number two team in the world. Leaving early in practice may just be a precaution for the superstar. A win against Germany could leave room for Ronaldo to rest for at least one of the next group games. If Germany does defeat Portugal, the questionable health of Ronaldo’s left leg could provide the USA or Ghana with a glimpse of daylight to move past the group of death.
German head coach Joachim Loew has shown concern about the health of Ronaldo. Loew knows that even a half healthy Real Madrid star could easily derail the Germany hopes of a World Cup championship. While fans should expect the German defenders to play Ronaldo tough, the head coach is aware that the entire Portuguese team is dangerous. That is the advantage Ronaldo brings to the team. The entire soccer world is aware that the forward is the best player in the world, however, he cannot be allowed to distract Germany from the rest of the Portugal squad.
Ronaldo exiting training early could also be a tactic by Portugal. The possibility that head coach Paulo Bento is not just giving Ronaldo every chance to rest prior to the game against Germany. Bento may be attempting to lure Germany and the rest of the Group G teams into a false sense of security, or at the very least, disrupting day-to-day training sessions by the other teams. The United States and Ghana may not be taking much notice to the Portugal star however. Both teams view their kick off game of the FIFA World Cup as a much win contest and may not take much notice of Germany and Portugal until after Monday.
The United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has upset many fans by calling the USA’s chance of winning the 2014 tournament unrealistic. Even researchers at Goldman Sachs have only given the US a half of a percent chance to win the World Cup. With the doubt in the USA’s chances at success in Brazil, Klinsmann still wants to win and is focused on Monday’s game against the Black Stars from Ghana. A victory over Ghana with a young team that was put together with more emphasis on the future success of USA soccer would be just a start. Klinsmann would like to carry the energy from a first ever victory against Ghana into the games against Portugal and Germany. A strong showing against the head coach’s former team Germany would make Klinsmann happy.
The United States must get past Ghana first, and that is no easy task. At the conclusion of the Black Stars win over South Korea before heading to Brazil, fans were beginning to call for the United States. The team knows the history of Ghana knocking the US out of the last two World Cups. Divine Asiedu, who is the CEO of Papaye Fast Food Limited in Ghana, believes that the Black Stars will shine bright in the group of death and has made a call to all of Ghana. Asiedu has asked that Ghanaians all help the Black Stars reach total victory by kneeling and offering prayers for the national team in Brazil.
Each team in Group G are basking in the extra time before the games of the FIFA World Cup begin. Ronaldo exiting practice early may or may not be a sign of trouble for Portugal, however, each team will be using this time wisely. The young American squad needs this training time to build a unity prior to taking the pitch against the Black Stars. Both Germany and Portugal need the extra few days to get healthy before the Monday game that has the potential to be the most watched game of group play.
Commentary by Carl Auer