The 29-year-old forward has missed Portugal's previous two warm-up matches through injury, hindering their preparations for the Brazil tournament and sparking speculation that he might not be fit in time. But the Real Madrid ace returned to training on Saturday with Paulo Bento's side, who have failed to sparkle in their captain's absence.

Portuguese officials were tight-lipped on Sunday about Ronaldo's availability for the Ireland encounter, but forward Vieirinha told reporters: "If he is fit to train, he is fit to play the match."

Ronaldo trained with the full squad again on Sunday at the New York Jets' training centre, as did experienced midfielder Raul Meireles, another who has been sidelined with injury. Portugal face a daunting World Cup opener on June 16 against Germany in Group 'G', which also comprises the USA and Ghana.

Bento has been keen to stress that Portugal — who only made it to Brazil via a play-off with Sweden that saw Ronaldo fire a hat-trick — are more than just one player. But Wolfsburg man Vieirinha admitted their star player's return had buoyed the whole squad.

A key player

"Everybody knows the importance of Ronaldo to our team and his importance to the group, both on and off the pitch," said Vieirinha, 28.

"I think the last training answered the questions that everyone had. I think this training shows he came to help the team and all of us are happy with it. I believe that was the best thing that could have happened in recent days," he said.

Portugal have failed to impress without Ronaldo, who has been hampered by a left thigh muscle problem and tendinitis in his left knee.


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