The Portugal and Real Madrid star arrived in Brazil to excited yelps of "Ronaldo!" yesterday, showing no signs of the left leg injuries that had troubled him in the lead up to the World Cup. Ronaldo relishes Portugal's underdog status (JPN/Agencies)
Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammates flew in a day after a 5-1 win over Ireland in an international friendly in the United States. The victory was his comeback game after two weeks on the sidelines with tendinitis in the knee and a thigh problem.
Wearing his cap back-to-front, he casually made his way across the tarmac at an airport near Campinas, a city around 100 kilometers north of Brazil's business capital Sao Paulo and where Portugal will be based.
On the other side of the runway, construction workers in red uniforms abandoned their jobs temporarily and lined up along a fence, straining their eyes to try and catch a glimpse of him.
Ronaldo started in the easy win over Ireland in New Jersey on Tuesday night and played 65 minutes, easing fears over his fitness for Portugal's opening World Cup game against Germany on Monday. Defender Fabio Coentrao said victory in Portugal's final tuneup was an important boost, as was Ronaldo's recovery.
Cristiano Ronaldo finally ended Lionel Messi's four-year reign as soccer's best player in 2013 and a starring role for Portugal at the World Cup finals would cap another stellar season for the astonishing forward.
The 29-year-old from humble roots on the island of Madeira is now a marketing phenomenon with almost 80 million followers on Facebook.
He scooped his second Ballon d'Or award in January despite not winning any silverware with Real Madrid the previous season but did score in last month's Champions League final to help Real secure their record-extending 10th European crown.
While he inspires a mixture of love and loathing among fans of all stripes, few would dispute he is one of the greatest goal-scorers to have played the game.
Since joining Real from Manchester United in 2009 for what was then a world record fee of 94 million euros ($128 million), Ronaldo has shown incredible consistency and Argentina's Messi is the only player who has bettered his goals tally in the past five seasons.
The sight of Ronaldo sprinting forward on another devastating Real counter-attack or smashing in a free-kick has become as familiar as that of Messi weaving his way towards goal and sliding the ball into the net.
Ronaldo is more like a racehorse, galloping past defenders and firing thunderbolt shots from all directions. He became Portugal's top goal-scorer when two goals in a 5-1 friendly defeat of Cameroon in March took his tally to 49 in 110 games.
Despite the deluge of goals, he has sometimes been accused of going missing in the big games and he failed to score against Spain in the round of 16 at the World Cup finals in 2010 or in the semi-finals of Euro 2012.
However, after an erratic Portuguese qualifying campaign he single-handedly secured their berth at the finals in Brazil when he netted all four goals over the two legs of their 4-2 aggregate success against Sweden in November's playoff.
Portugal have been drawn with Germany, Ghana and United States in Group G in Brazil and Ronaldo has said he will relish not playing under the same pressure he feels at Real.
Portugal's best result at a World Cup was third on their first appearance in 1966. "We are not favourites which is good for us, it takes out a lot of pressure," Ronaldo said in March.
"We know that Spain, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, they are favourites, which is fantastic for us. But I am quite confident we can do it. We have a difficult group, in my opinion, and we are going to go step by step, game by game,” he said.
"The first game will be very, very difficult against Germany, but I believe we are going to have a fantastic World Cup, and without pressure, which is amazing," he added.
The Portugal and Real Madrid star arrived in Brazil to excited yelps of "Ronaldo!" yesterday, showing no signs of the left leg injuries that had troubled him in the lead up to the World Cup.
Ronaldo relishes Portugal's underdog status