CUIABA, Brazil (AP) — Whether at international or club level, Cristiano Ronaldo's goals, skills and mere presence has got his various teams out of many sticky situations down the years.
Yet even the world player of the year may have met his match at the World Cup, considering the size of the task he faces with Portugal on Thursday.
Arguably the most hotly contested group in Brazil reaches its climax with both qualification spots still up for grabs heading into the final round of fixtures in Group G.
Portugal and Ghana both need to win when they meet in Brasilia — but both know they are at the mercy of a match being played simultaneously more than 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) away, Germany vs. the United States in Recife.
With Germany and the U.S. on four points, a draw would put both teams through to the last 16. In that case, the outcome of the game between Portugal and Ghana, who are on one point, would not matter.
Portugal's task is even harder because its goal difference is -4, much worse than the Germans (+4) and the Americans (+1).
"We're depending on third parties," a resigned-looking Portugal coach Paulo Bento said. "We're depending on results of other teams."
Ghana, which has a goal difference of -1, has more hope. A victory in the Brazilian capital, combined with a win for Germany, could see it qualify at the expense of the U.S.
Conspiracy theories have gone into overdrive since Portugal's last-gasp equalizer in the 2-2 draw with the United States, which left all to play for in the group. Cynics point to West Germany's 1-0 victory against Austria in the 1982 World Cup and the 2-2 draw between Denmark and Sweden in the 2004 European Championship as examples of teams securing mutually beneficial results in games.
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