MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — With Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal still has a chance to reach the second round at the World Cup. Without him, the advantage might just switch to the United States.
Ronaldo has been carrying an injury to his left knee, and the world player of the year was seen using an ice pack on it during training on Wednesday. But he is still expected to play against the Americans on Sunday at the Arena da Amazonia in a match that Portugal can't afford to lose.
"Cristiano is 100 percent fit to play," backup Portugal goalkeeper Beto said this week. "Every match, if he starts to play, it is because he is fit to play."
The Portuguese lost 4-0 to Germany in their opening Group G match, with Ronaldo playing despite the injury.
The United States, however, is going in the other direction. After being knocked out of the last two World Cups by Ghana, the Americans beat the African team 2-1 in their opening match and could even secure a spot in the second round this weekend.
If Germany beats Ghana on Saturday, and the Americans find a way to win on Sunday, then Portugal and the Ghanaians will be eliminated.
Ronaldo could have something to say about that, however.
"It's going to be something that we're going to always be aware of him," United States midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "Everybody's going to have to have an eye when we're on offense, on defense, and it's going to take 11 guys playing offense and defense to win this game."
Ronaldo has been one of the best players in the world for about a decade, and last year he even usurped Lionel Messi by ending the Argentina forward's streak of winning the FIFA Ballon d'Or.