Maybe we’re average: Cristiano Ronaldo with some real talk after Portugal’s latest stumble

7 Comments

The legacies of Eusebio, Luis Figo, and Cristiano Ronaldo have created a lofty, unfair reputation for Portugal, one the team’s play has failed to back up. The nation’s never won a World Cup or European title, and ahead of the last four major tournaments, the Seleccao have needed playoffs to qualify. For a country of 10.5 million people, Portugal produces an admirable amount of talent, but those talents have created a reputation that outstretched their results.

That reality’s been hammered home over the first 180 minutes of this summer’s World Cup. After a 4-0 loss to Germany, Portugal needed a 95th minute goal to salvage a draw against the United States. Considering Paulo Bento’s team needed a major error from American defender Geoff Cameron to score its first goal of the tournament, Portugal’s single point through two games might overstate the quality of their performances.

According to the team’s biggest star, those results may not be a fluke. While many think of Portugal as a world elite, captain Cristiano Ronaldo sees his team as below the standard of the world’s best.

Here’s Ronaldo, from the Press Association’s Monday report:

“Maybe we’re an average team … We have a very limited team and we are not at the best level. This does not enable you to beat top teams.

“There are no miracles. We knew we would have a tough group, with perhaps teams better than us …

“I’m not a hypocrite, I never thought we could win the tournament.”

That doesn’t mean Portugal hasn’t been a disappointed. While they’re not on the same level as Germany, the Seleccao were rightly favored to get out of what their inflated reputation helped project as the Group of Death. It would have been more accurate to depict the group as one World Cup favorite (Germany) with three teams whose complementing strengths and weaknesses made for one of the tournament’s competitive groups.

Perhaps with the virtue of hindsight, that’s easy to say, but Portugal’s résumé also provided reason to doubt. Besides a semifinal run at Euro 2012, there’s little the team has done with its current generation that suggests they’re close to Germany.

‘Average’ may be harsh on Ronaldo’s part, but after two disappointing results, it may have been time for some real talk. If anybody within Portugal’s squad was buying into their reputation, their captains set them straight. The Seleccao have a lot of room to improve.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

Ian Walton/Getty Images
2 Comments

Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.