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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup chit-chat: Portugal sweat over Ronaldo's fitness

World Cup chit-chat: Portugal sweat over Ronaldo's fitness

Last updated on: June 04, 2014 16:45 IST

World Cup chit-chat: Portugal sweat over Ronaldo's fitness

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The Portugal team is in New Jersey in preparation for the FIFA World Cup starting in about a week, but the country is facing problems over Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness.

The FIFA Ballon d'Or winner has a "muscle injury on the back of his left thigh as well as left-leg patellar tendinitis," the Portuguese Football Association said on Tueday in a report on his medical issues and those of stars Raul Meireles, Pepe and Beto.

While Portugal have previously discussed superstar Ronaldo's thigh injury -- sustained late in the season – it was the first time they reported patellar tendinitis.

The Portuguese have been drawn in Group G at the World Cup and will face Germany on June 16 in Salvador, the United States a week later in Manaus and then Ghana on June 26 in Brasilia.

"We hope that Cristiano is in good enough shape to play -- and to help the team," teammate Nani, who plays for Manchester United, told reporters.

Ronaldo "is going well, and he is relaxed about it ... Things are going the right way," he added, after hundreds of fans welcomed the team at the Newark airport in New Jersey, just outside New York City.

Portugal will play two friendlies while in the United States.

They take on Mexico in Foxboro near Boston on Friday -- at the home of the NFL's New England Patriots.

Next Tuesday they face Ireland at the Jets' MetLife Stadium -- which hosted the Super Bowl in February.

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Image: Cristiano Ronaldo (left) of Portugal stretches with teammate Raul Meireles as they practice for their upcoming friendly matches in the United States at the NFL New York Jets practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, on Tuesday
Photographs: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters

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Neymar shines as Brazil ease past Panama in friendly

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Brazil beat Panama 4-0 in their penultimate friendly before hosting the World Cup, with Neymar, Dani Alves, Hulk and Willian scoring the goals in a leisurely but convincing performance.

Panama showed plenty of adventure but they could not make any clear cut chances and the home side took the lead in the 27th minute when Neymar's sweetly-struck free kick beat the diving keeper from 20 metres.

Thirteen minutes later his Barcelona team mate Dani Alves doubled the lead with a low right-foot shot from just outside the box. Hulk scored the third within seconds of the re-start after running on to a brilliant Neymar backheel and slotting the ball home with the outside of his left foot.

Substitute Willian concluded the scoring when he fired home from inside the penalty area after more good work by Neymar.

"I think the result wasn't the important thing today, the important thing was playing, getting the team together again andgetting back into form so that we're ready to get a result in the opening match," Dani Alves said.

"Everyone did their thing today, everyone did their bit, and that is what makes our group strong, everyone is there to help each other."

Despite a run of 13 wins in their previous 14 matches going into the game, the home fans were not impressed in the early stages, barracking their side as Panama began in lively fashion.

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Image: Neymar (left) of Brazil and Adolfo Machado of Panama compete for the ball during their international friendly at Serra Dourada Stadium in Goiania, Brazil on Tuesday
Photographs: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

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'But keep calm, we'll get there'

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"We need the fans to be a bit more patient, they were booing us at the start," he said. "Once we picked up the pace of the game, and we got used to the pitch we got better and we imposed our rhythm on them and got goals."

After Neymar's goal calmed the home side and their fans, it was all Brazil.

The Panamanians, who narrowly missed qualifying for theirfirst World Cup, rarely troubled the hosts with Neymar and Hulk showing fine form as the start of the World Cup looms.

Brazil are hosting the World Cup for the first since 1950 and open the month-long tournament against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12. They also play Mexico and Cameroon in Group A.

They face a final warm up against Serbia on Friday.

"We still have a week and a half left," manager Luiz Felipe Scolari said, referring to Brazil's World Cup opener.

"There's a good way to go. But keep calm, we'll get there. Today was reasonably better but I am still demanding more.

"We had problems with the transition," Scolari added.

"It was off in the first 20 minutes of the match and things could have been different against a better team.

"If I had to choose one half it would be the second in which we showed more movement, better possession and more agility. I liked the end of the first half and the whole of the second."

Brazil open the World Cup, the first to be played in Brazil since 1950, against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.

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Image: Daniel Alves (centre) of Brazil celebrates with Hulk (left) and Fred after scoring a goal during their international friendly at Serra Dourada Stadium on Tuesday
Photographs: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

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Bright Bosnia end Mexico's unbeaten run

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Izet Hajrovic's first half goal gave Bosnia and Herzegovina a deserved 1-0 win over Mexico in an international friendly between two World Cup-bound sides at Soldier Field in Chicago on Tuesday, ending 'El Tri's' eight-game unbeaten run.

Bosnia dominated the first half and could easily have gone to the break with a bigger advantage but, in the end, had goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to thank for two great saves to deny Mexico an equaliser.

Mexico coach Miguel Herrera experimented with his line-up but the performance of his team will have disappointed an overwhelmingly Mexican capacity crowd of 60,707.

Edin Dzeko, whose two goals gave Bosnia a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Saturday, was a menace to the Mexican defence from the outset and went close to scoring three times in the opening eight minutes.

After forcing Alfredo Talavera into a save with a low shot in the fourth minute, Dzeko twice fired just over the bar as Bosnia's midfield, prompted by the classy Miralem Pjanic, took control.

Mexico's first real chance came in the 24th minute with Javier Hernandez, given a start in attack, latching on to a fine ball from Miguel Layun and striking the outside of the post with a low shot.

However, Bosnia's deserved lead came, four minutes before the break, when Sejad Salihovic whipped in a ball from the byline and Hajrovic met it with a confident first-time strike.

A series of substitutions disrupted the game in the second half but Mexico began to pile on the pressure in the closing minutes as they sought to defend coach Miguel Herrera's unbeaten record.

Francisco Rodriguez's glancing header from an inswinging free-kick forced a great save out of Begovic and the Bosnia keeper was at full stretch again moments later to push a fierce Miguel Ponce long-range effort around the post.

Mexico, who face hosts Brazil, Cameroon and Croatia in World Cup Group A, will wrap up their preparations with a friendly against Portugal in Foxborough on Friday.

Bosnia, who are featuring in their first World Cup as an independent nation, will now head to Brazil, where they are drawn in Group F with Argentina, Iran and Nigeria.

"This is good for our confidence to beat Ivory Coast and then to beat Mexico in front of their great fans," ManchesterCity striker Dzeko told ESPN.

"We are prepared well for the World Cup. This is an amazing thing for our team and our small country, we have waited over 20 years for this and we want to do our best to make the second round -- and then we will see."

Brazil face Croatia in the opening match of the tournament in Sao Paulo on June 12 with the final taking place in Rio de Janeiro on July 13. 

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Image: Izet Hajrovic celebrates after scoring against Mexico on Tuesday
Photographs: FIFA/Facebook

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Lampard to captain England in Ecuador warm-up

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Frank Lampard is to captain England in the World Cup warm-up against Ecuador while Wayne Rooney will be in the starting lineup again to build his match fitness, manager Roy Hodgson said on Tuesday.

Lampard, who announced on Monday he was leaving Chelsea after 13 years with the Premier League team, has been linked with a move to a Major League Soccer club in the United States.

The 35-year-old midfielder, who will win his 104th cap at the Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday, is to lead an experimental England lineup against Ecuador with James Milner being deployed at right back in place of Glen Johnson.

Hodgson said he would change the team that beat Peru 3-0 at Wembley on Friday but added he would stick with Manchester United forward Rooney, the subject of media speculation over whether he deserves to start England's opening World Cup game against Italy in Brazil later this month.

"The thinking behind Wayne starting a second game is quite simple," Hodgson told a news conference.

"He only played 60 minutes the other day, he didn't play many games before he came to join us. We think he is recovering his match fitness and we think starting the game and playing a part of the game will be to his advantage.

"We will see how long he plays and that will be based on how his fitness is progressing."

Asked where Rooney would play, Hodgson said: "There is a real obsession with Wayne which I don't necessarily share. I am very happy to have him here as one of 23 players but I don't have to share the obsession that he has to play here, or has to do that.

"As far as I am concerned I look at the players at my disposal. I decide what I think they need and we need from them and then I expect them to do it."

Turning to midfielder Milner, Hodgson added: "He's going to play right back tomorrow because I think he has the qualities to play there and I think there may be moments during the World Cup where we would like to use him there".

With Kyle Walker missing out on the squad through injury Johnson, who has looked shaky in defence in recent games for club and country, has little competition.

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Image: Frank Lampard (left) and manager Roy Hodgson talk to the media during an England press conference at The Sunlife Stadium in Miami, Florida on Tuesday
Photographs: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

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'In training the lads look sharp'

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Hodgson said he wanted to see Milner play there in case Johnson gets injured.

"He (Milner) is in the squad quite rightly as a right or left-sided midfielder and that is where we see him mostly but thanks to his ability to do other jobs we think it will be interesting to see how he gets on at right back against Ecuador.

"I have seen him play there for ManchesterCity. For me it was always obvious that if we needed someone to step in there he could do the job and Wednesday will be the moment to try it."

Media reports suggest Hodgson could give Everton's Ross Barkley, Southampton's Luke Shaw and Arsenal pair Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance to shine against Ecuador while also testing the fitness of Manchester United defender Phil Jones.

Lampard is excited about the emergence of England's young guns and believes the competition for places is healthy.

"The good thing is we are arguing about where to play all these talented players, whether it be Wayne Rooney, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Ox (Oxlade-Chamberlain)," he said.

"They are the things we bemoaned a few years ago that we didn't have that excitement in that squad and now we do. So let’s embrace it.

"In training the lads look sharp, they look brilliant and let's see what they can do," added Lampard.

England are aiming to use the heat and humidity in Miami to prepare for the conditions in Manaus where they will take on the Italians in their first Group D game on June 14.

They also face Uruguay and Costa Rica at the World Cup while Ecuador take on France, Switzerland and Honduras in Group E.

England's final warm-up game before they leave for Rio de Janeiro is against Honduras in Miami on Saturday.


Image: Leighton Baines in action during an England training session at The Sunlife Stadium on June 3, 2014 in Miami, Florida on Tuesday
Photographs: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

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