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Brazil 2014 World Cup Sport

Ronaldo’s World Cup hanging by a thread, Belgium look to sharpen scoring touch

World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo is depending on an unlikely combination of results if Portugal are to qualify

By Brian Homewood, Philip O’Connor, Peter Rutherford and Alan Baldwin
World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo’s hopes of continuing in the World Cup are hanging by a thread and will depend on an unlikely combination of results in Thursday’s Group G games.
Ronaldo’s Portugal must beat Ghana, preferably by several goals, to have any hope of progressing but must also hope the Germany-United States match does not end in a draw.
After winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, Ronaldo has had a miserable World Cup and has yet to hit the target.
He was suffering from tendinosis in his left knee in the run-up to the tournament and there is speculation that the problem has not yet cleared up.
After Portugal struggled to a 2-2 draw with the US thanks to a last-gasp equaliser in their second game, Ronaldo suggested their chances had been overrated before the tournament.
“I never thought that we were going to win the World Cup,” he told Portuguese media after the US game.
“For me, it would have been easy, I could have not come to the World Cup and finished the season as European champion. But I’m going to stand up and be counted.”
Portugal and Ghana have one point each while Germany and the US have four and the latter pair will both definitely qualify if either match ends in a draw.
However, if neither game is drawn, it will come down to goal difference between the winner of Portugal-Ghana and the loser of Germany-US
By a little twist of irony, the nucleus of the Germany team comes from Bayern Munich, who Ronaldo helped humiliate in the Champions League two months ago.
Despite the friendship between Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Low, Klinsmann’s assistant when the ex-striker coached Germany at the 2006 World Cup but who is now in charge of the Germans, they will not be exchanging pleasantries before the match.
Klinsmann told reporters that there would be no repeat of 1982’s “non-aggression pact of Gijon”, when West Germany and Austria played out a 1-0 win for the Germans at a pedestrian pace, a result that allowed both sides to go through.
“We have that fighting spirit and energy and determination to do well in every single game,” Klinsmann.
“I don’t think it will be a game for draws. Both teams will go into the game and want to win the group.”
Belgium meanwhile are not firing on all cylinders and had to grind out narrow wins over Algeria and Russia in Group H, so a game against leaky South Korea might be just what the doctor ordered.
The Belgians are considered ‘dark horses’ by many pundits to go all the way in Brazil after their star-studded squad went through World Cup qualifying unbeaten.
But they have looked far from fluent in Group H, coming from behind late on to edge Algeria 2-1 and only beating Russia through Divock Origi’s 88th-minute goal.
While the win over Russia sealed Belgium’s place in the last 16, they will have to find their scoring touch if they are to go deeper in the tournament.
Korea can still qualify in second place with a big win, and providing the result of the other group game goes their way, but it would be a minor miracle if they keep the clean sheet they will need against Belgium.
The Koreans saw their hopes virtually extinguished on Sunday with a 4-2 defeat by Algeria.
Prior to Sunday’s game, Algeria had scored once in 28 years at the World Cup. It was also the first time an African side had scored four goals at the tournament.
Fabio Capello’s goal-shy Russia will have to do better than England did under his guidance four years ago when they face Algeria.
The authoritarian Italian’s lacklustre lions played out a 0-0 draw against the ‘Desert Foxes’ in Cape Town in 2010,
Winning will not be easy for Russia. They have just one goal to their credit.
“There is only one chance against Algeria – a draw solves nothing,” Capello told reporters after Russia’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
“I still believe (that we can qualify). Absolutely I believe,” added the former Real Madrid, AC Milan, Roma and Juventus coach whose World Cup record so far is patchy to say the least.
In six World Cup games to date with England and Russia, the conservative Capello has only one win to his credit – a 1-0 victory against Slovenia in 2010.
Russia will have to look a lot sharper than they did against Belgium, even if their defence at least looked tight after veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev’s blunder in gifting Korea the opening goal in their 1-1 draw.
“We’re continuing to hope for the best and we reckon we can get out of the group,” said midfielder Oleg Shatov, whose country failed to make it past the group stages in their last two World Cups in 1994 and 2002.
Almost 50 years have passed since the two countries’ only previous meeting, a 2-2 friendly draw played out in November 1964 when Russia was part of the Soviet Union.

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