LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal fans searching for explanations for their team's disappointing World Cup performances are finding plenty of possible culprits.
A last-gasp 2-2 draw against the United States on Sunday, following a 4-0 thrashing by Germany, has left the Portuguese on the verge of a first-round exit from the tournament in Brazil.
Returning home after the group stage would be a stunning upset for team ranked fourth in the world by FIFA. That possibility comes after Spain, Portugal's Iberian neighbor, saw its World Cup title defense come to an end after just two games.
The finger-pointing in Portugal began Monday. Targets for criticism included the team's perceived over-dependence on star Cristiano Ronaldo, poor physical preparation, misguided organization for the tournament, coach Paulo Bento's failure to bring new players into the team, and a squad that's thin on quality midfielders and strikers.
Ronaldo gave a candid assessment after the game in Manaus, where Silvestre Varela's equalizer in added time kept alive Portugal's slender hopes of advancing.
"We're probably just an average team. I'd be lying if I said we were a top team," Ronaldo said. "Portugal was never a favorite (at the World Cup). I honestly never thought I would be World Cup champion."
The Real Madrid player recalled Portugal's troubled qualification for the tournament, which it reached via the playoffs. "We have to be humble and know what we're capable of," he said.
Ronaldo also indicated he is below his best form. "Recently I haven't been how I had hoped," he said.
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