Cristiano Ronaldo made his return to the pitch last night for Portugal prior to the Group G team leaving for the FIFA World Cup. The Ronaldo led Portuguese National theTam easily defeated Ireland 5-1 in front of over 46,000 fans at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The group of death just got deadlier.
A healthy Ronaldo entering play on June 16 against Germany may give fans one of the best game of the tournament. In FIFA’s world rankings, Portugal recently dropped from third to fourth and Germany is at the number two spot. Now that the best player in the world healthy for Portugal, soccer fans should not miss this game. Against Ireland, Ronaldo was obviously healthy, and the best player on the pitch. While the superstar did not score during the 65 minutes he was in the game, the forward gave the fans quite a show and sent a beautiful free kick at the goal from 30 yards out that struck the post. Ronaldo is the key to the success of Portugal during the tournament in Brazil. Without the 29-year old on the pitch, Portugal struggled in the previous two friendlies, drawing with Greece and barely squeaking by Mexico. If Ronaldo can not compete in needed games, Portugal has no chance. However, as long as the best player in the world is playing at that level, Portugal has a legitimate chance to hoist the World Cup into the air in a month.
Germany is expected to go far in the tournament. Currently the German National Team is focused only on Portugal, and taking the tournament one game at a time. The Germans have had little trouble with Portugal in the past. However, if the Ronaldo led team could knock off the number two team in the world, Germany would likely still make it out of group play. A Germany win in the teams first match of the tournament would give both Ghana and the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) a ray of hope to move into the knockout round. If Germany can force Ronaldo to play the entire game and wear himself out, the next game for Portugal against the USMNT could slip the advantage to the spunky US squad.
A return to the pitch by Ronaldo is troublesome for the teams in Group G, however, it can be positive for the USA and Ghana, who are both considered long shots to advance to the knockout stages. The USMNT enters the FIFA World Cup with a young team and has added a lot of speed on the defensive side to match up against Ronaldo. However, the lads from America need to get past Ghana first. The US Men have never beaten the Ghana National Team and the Black Stars are riding an emotional high going into the World Cup after demolishing South Korea 4-0 earlier this week. With that win by the Black Stars the USA must prepare for an emotionally charged Ghana team. For the USMNT to hope for a chance to move beyond group play, the team must find a way to get past Ghana. A win by Germany could give the US boys that needed injection of energy to get past the troublesome Ghana team.
The victory over South Korea added fuel to the belief by the country of Ghana that the Black Stars can escape the group of death. The team needs a win for Germany over Portugal, just like the United States does. However, for Ghana to have any chance to capitalize on a Germany victory, the team will have to defeat a determined USMNT. The best chance for Ghana is to focus on the attack. Unloading shot after shot against USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard may give the Black Stars a fighting chance. The team will also need to contain the United States front line led by Clint Dempsey.
With the FIFA World Cup starting Thursday, Group G still has five days before their play starts. Now that Ronaldo has returned to the pitch and looks to be in top form, Germany, the United States and Ghana must take notice. Portugal has indicated that Ronaldo would rest during the Ghana game, however, the Black Stars can not count on that. If Germany defeats Portugal, and the US can muster a draw or pull a shocking victory over Ronaldo and company, It is a strong bet that the world’s best player would not sit in the final game against Ghana if the team needs to win to move out of the group and advance in the tournament.
Commentary by Carl Auer