RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo is ready to lead Portugal against Germany in one of the biggest games of the first week at the World Cup, saying his sore knee won't be a problem.
The Real Madrid forward, arguably the most recognizable player in the sport, said he wouldn't risk his career by going into such a tough match with a serious injury. The match at Salvador features two of the top four ranked teams in the world, with Germany at No. 2 and Portugal at No. 4.
In the other Group G match Monday, Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. team is aiming to reverse its record against Ghana, which has ended the American run at the last two World Cups. Nigeria and Iran meet in Group F.
Things to watch for Monday:
NOT ALL ABOUT KNEE: Ronaldo has been bothered by a left knee problem in recent weeks but says he'll be "100 percent" to take on Germany. He knows history is against Portugal in recent matches against Germany at major events — the Germans beat Portugal for third place at the 2006 World Cup, and have won their head-to-heads at the last two European championships.
But the world player of the year is confident some club form could be a good omen: he helped Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals and then clinched the title.
"Maybe this will be the year to change the history and Monday would be the best day for it to happen," said Ronaldo, Portugal's all-time leading scorer. "It's a new tournament, new players, our team is good, we have confidence."
Ronaldo's mantra this week has been "one player is not a team" — but Portugal does tend to struggle when he's not available. Joao Moutinho will have to create opportunities in midfield and Manchester United winger Nani needs to find form and fitness to have any impact on the tournament.
Germany coach Joachim Loew was keeping his starting lineup secret but injuries will force some changes. Sami Khedira, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, captain Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger are all coming back from injuries. Veteran forward Lukas Podolski could play an important role in what will be his third World Cup.
Venue: Salvador. Kickoff: 1 p.m. local time (noon in New York, 5 p.m. in London, 1 a.m. in Tokyo).
DRAINING CONDITIONS: A two-day downpour has flooded some streets and caused mudslides in Natal. The forecast is for more unsettled weather when the Americans open their campaign against Ghana, which knocked them out in the second round in 2010 and ended their run in the group stage in '06.