In his press conference on Saturday, Paulo Bento referenced the four players that will be unable to start for Portugal, while hinting that a fifth may also be ruled out. Although the Portugal manager did not explicitly state that Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing, it is believed he is not the fifth, and will be starting against the U.S.
What is known is this:
- Pepe will miss out following his red card in the first match, when he headbutted Thomas Müller during the 4-0 loss to Germany
- Forward Hugo Almeida, defender Fabio Coentrao and goalkeeper Rui Patricio are all injured and will be unable to play
- Defender Bruno Alves missed out on Saturday’s training, and it is uncertain whether he will be available
While Bento never specifically stated that Ronaldo would start against the USMNT, he did discuss his role in the side, saying that it is not up to the forward to carry the team on his own:
We have one of the best players in the world, but there are others to support him. When I took the job I said I’d never put the responsibility for solving problems on his shoulders or those of any other player. That’s my issue. He is an important player for the team, but I don’t think he’s got any more pressure than before.
Teammate Raul Meireles also refused to confirm whether Ronaldo would be starting, instead saying, “Cristiano played the last game. He trains every day with all of us. Cristiano is fit to play, that’s all I can say.”
It looks likely Portugal’s superstar will play against the U.S. But with Bento forced into so many changes, and with Ronaldo’s nagging injury, how much of a difference will he be able to make?