Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese footballing icon, has had his role in the upcoming FIFA World Cup called into question due to a number of injury concerns. Portugal, who are in what has been dubbed the ‘Group of Death’, will face Germany, Ghana, and the United States of America in the group stages of this year’s tournament, and will likely need good results to advance into the elimination rounds. This phenomenon is particularly exacerbated by the fact that Portugal has only defeated Germany once in nine matches, with their one win coming at the 2000 European Championship. If this trend continues in Brazil, it will put Portugal in the unenviable position of needing to secure points in their matches against Ghana and the U.S.A should they hope to advance.
With such a difficult road ahead of them, Portugal will need its best players to be in good form at the upcoming FIFA World Cup, but this may not be the case. The Portuguese Football Association has recently announced that Ronaldo is suffering from patellar tendinitis, as well as a muscle injury in his left thigh. Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’s knee, causes pain in the knee, and can lead complete tear of the tendon if left untreated for a long enough period of time. This was the first time that the Portuguese Football Association have discussed Ronaldo’s patellar tendinitis, although they have previously discussed the impact that his thigh injury might have on his FIFA World Cup campaign.
Nani, one of Ronaldo’s team mates on the Portuguese national football team, said that there was positive progress in regards to Ronaldo’s injuries, but also stressed that Portugal must be prepared to play even if the 2013 Ballon d’Or winner is unable to play. Questions regarding Cristiano Ronaldo’s ability to play in the upcoming FIFA World Cup have merely added to Portugal’s injury concerns heading into the tournament, as Ronaldo is by no means the only Portuguese player suffering from injuries at this point.
Some of the other injuries that are currently troubling Portugal include injuries to Pepe, Raul Merieles, and Beto, all of whom have been practising separately from the rest of the Portuguese squad. Nani, who missed the FIFA World Cup in South Africa due to a shoulder injury, has plenty of experience dealing with injuries and will likely be asked to step into a much larger role if Ronaldo is prevented from competing by his injury problems.
Portugal still has a few games left before they head to Brazil to face off against Germany, as they will play Mexico on June 6, and Ireland on June 10, in Boston and New York respectively. These games will likely be used by Portugal to work their injured players back to match fitness, although it seems unlikely that Ronaldo will participate in the friendlies. The implications that these questions regarding Cristiano Ronaldo’s match fitness could have on Group G, and possibly on the FIFA World Cup in general, are enormous, as a Portugal without Ronaldo is not nearly as threatening and could potentially leave the door open for the Ghanaians or the Americans to advance out of the group stages of the tournament.
Commentary by Nicholas Grabe