Following his team's 2-2 draw against the USA on Sunday, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo revealed to reporters he never believed his team had any chance of winning the 2014 World Cup, referring to the Portuguese side as "average."
As reported by Sky Sports, via FoxSports.com, Ronaldo's assessment of Paulo Bento's World Cup side was particularly harsh:
Maybe we're an average team.
It would be a lie to say that we are a top 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 never thought we could be world champions, we have to be humble and know our level. I'm not a hypocrite, I never thought we could win the tournament.
Collecting just a single point from their first two matches, Portugal are on the brink of elimination from the 2014 World Cup. Ronaldo and his teammates would have to defeat Ghana by a large margin in their final match, and hope Germany do the same thing against the USA.
The Yanks trailed Portugal for much of Sunday's match but fought back to take the lead inside the final 15 minutes. Ronaldo had been nearly invisible for much of the match, but he gave his compatriots hope with a pin-point cross just before the final whistle that lead to the equaliser.
Ronaldo hasn't look like his usual, dominant self, however, and the media have attributed his lack of impact to a possible knee injury. The player himself wanted to hear no excuses:
I'm here, I'm fighting, I'm trying to do my best, I'm running, and obviously it's no use talking about my issues. I don't want to justify myself by talking about my physical problems, that's water under the bridge. Every day there's something new in the papers about my knee, and about this and that. That's why I don't want to justify myself. I'm here body and soul to help the national team.
The Ballon d'Or winner is yet to score during the tournament, a surprising statistic considering the excellent 2013-14 season he just had with Real Madrid. Per WhoScored.com, Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 43 La Liga and Champions League appearances, a remarkable average.
That success hasn't carried over to the World Cup, however, and it now appears Ronaldo perhaps never thought it would. The Toronto Sun's Kurtis Larson agrees Portugal just weren't a very good team coming into the tournament:
As I said before the tournament, Portugal is an average UEFA side ... Might even struggle to finish top 3 in CONCACAF. Might.— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) June 16, 2014
Alexi Lalas said the same thing before the start of the tournament:
Average. Often look like they are winging it w/o an idea of what they want to do. RT @cdwetzel1 What do you think of Portugal tonight?— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) June 7, 2014
Built around the superb skills of Ronaldo, Portugal never came up with a plan B to get past their opponents in either of their first two World Cup matches. With an early exit now looking almost inevitable, the team will have to start looking for its identity as they prepare for Euro 2016 qualifications.
Ronaldo's comments won't be well received by the Portuguese press, but judging by the team's disastrous start to the tournament, he's not wrong. As Portugal's captain and biggest star, perhaps this message can serve as a wake-up call.
The team does have a number of young, talented player like Bruma and William Carvalho, and if Bento and his side can learn from this experience, there's no reason to believe Portugal won't make a swift return to the top of European football.