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FIFA World Cup: Germany face Ronaldo challenge to keep stranglehold on Portugal

Publish Date: 16 Jun 2014, 01:24 PM
Last Updated: 16 Jun 2014, 03:39 PM
quick bites

Salvador (Brazil): Germany kick-off their World Cup campaign on Monday aiming to continue their domination of Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal at recent major tournaments.

Germany face Ronaldo challenge
Germany face Ronaldo challenge

 

The Germans enjoyed wins over Portugal at the 2006 World Cup, plus both of the last two European championships and want to get their Group G campaign off to a flying start with a fourth consecutive win.
     
The Salvador clash is a re-run of Portugal's Euro 2012 opener against Germany, when they went down 1-0 to a second-half Mario Gomez goal.
     
The pre-match build-up in Salvador has focused on whether or not Ronaldo will be fit to play at the Arena Fonte Nova after a knee and thigh injury.
     
The 29-year-old took a full part in Portugal's training session on Saturday with team-mates William Carvalho and goalkeeper Eduardo both saying he will play.
     
Eduardo insists the Portugal squad is highly motivated to erase memories of a "disastrous" 2010 campaign which ended in the last 16 at the hands of eventual winners Spain.
     
But all eyes have been on the world player of the year's recovery, despite Ronaldo's return to play 65 minutes of Portugal's final warm-up in their 5-1 drubbing of Ireland.

READ MORE: Ronaldo relishes Portugal's underdog status
     
The Real Madrid forward, whose form and fitness will be vital to Portugal's chances, has had a heavy strapping on his knee in training.
     
But as Germany defender Benedikt Hoewedes pointed out: "This isn't Germany against Ronaldo, but Germany against Portugal".
     
Germany midfielder Sami Khedira claims his Real Madrid team-mate has told him this is Portugal's time to break their German bogey.
     
Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski says the Germans respect dead-ball specialist Ronaldo, but there is no fear.
     
"We have prepared ourselves to play Portugal and not just one player," said Podolski, who is set to win his 115th cap.
     
"He is certainly extremely dangerous and can decide games, but we also have players capable of doing that. If we produce a good performance, then it doesn't matter what he does," he said.
     
The million-dollar question is whether Germany can recreate their standard from four years ago when they finished third after hammering Argentina and England en route.
     
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is set to play, but has labored with injury to his right shoulder while vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is struggling for fitness after tendinitis of the knee.

READ MORE ON FIFA WORLD CUP
     
His defensive midfield partner Khedira has spent most of the season on the bench at Real Madrid after a serious knee injury.
     
Coach Joachim Loew only has one striker in his squad with 36-year-old Miroslav Klose just one short of equaling Ronaldo's all-time record of 15 goals at World Cup finals.
     
Arsenal's attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil is set to be pushed up front as a 'False Nine' with Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos taking over in central midfield.
     
One factor which could play into the hands of Paulo Bento's fleet-footed Portuguese is Loew's decision to move captain Philipp Lahm from right-back into midfield.
     
Loew is set to play four centre-backs with Mats Hummels partnering Per Mertesacker with Jerome Boateng and Hoewedes used as wing-backs.

Ronaldo fit to face Germany

Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday removed the doubts on whether he would be able to play Portugal's World Cup opener against Germany although he admitted he can still feel some pain.

"I am here because I want to help my national team. If I am not ready, if I am not feeling well, I would be the first to tell the coach I do not want to play," the Portugal's talisman said in a pre-match conference at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador.

The 29-year-old forward ended his training session early Thursday and limped off the pitch with an ice bag on his knee. Reports speculated that the FIFA Player of the Year could be sidelined for Monday's match between Portugal and Germany.

"As the coach has said many times, the first thing he cares is the health of the players. If I feel anything, if I feel any injury which I am sure I was not feeling, I will be the first to say as I know my career will still last for a few years," Ronaldo said.

"I will never risk my career for one match or for the World Cup. It is the most important thing for me. It should be 'I' coming first and then football," he said.

Although Ronaldo labelled the suspicion as "something silly", he did admit he can still feel some pain right now.

"I have been practising for several days. That is because I have been feeling well. Obviously I would like to not have any pain, but that is impossible," he said.

"Since I started playing I do not have any day which I do not feel any pain or what so ever. This is just a part of it," he added.

Ronaldo insisted he is ready for a great World Cup and both his team and himself are highly motivated.

"What I want most is to be the same person in my club when in the national team, trying to give all my best for my team to win. And that is what I will try to do tomorrow (Monday) and the whole World Cup," he said.

Germany aim to reach World Cup final: Loew

Germany's priority is to reach the 2014 World Cup final and then think about winning the title, national coach Joachim Loew said.

Germany, the second-ranked team in the world, according to FIFA rankings, will face Portugal on Monday in their opening game this year.

"Portugal is a great team, but if we work well as a team and defend well, seizing the opportunities we create, we have great potential to go far," Loew said.

Germany, having won 12 of their 17 opening matches and lost only once, a 2-1 to Algeria loss in 1982, have the confidence to move on in this World Cup.

"We have quality and talent. In these last several days, during practice, I felt certain expectation and tension. Everyone is more excited, and we are ready for the World Cup," said Loew. Germany are in a tough group, with Ghana, US and Portugal.

(JPN/Agencies)

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