Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo insists he is giving is all to the team following their last-gasp draw against the United States but also revealed he never anticipated he would be lifting the World Cup this summer.
The Real Mardrid forward had been labelled as Portugal’s big hope heading into the competition but a long-standing knee injury has seen his contribution in the first two Group G fixtures curtailed.
Following a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany, Portugal almost slipped to defeat to the United States despite Nani giving them an early lead in Manaus.
Jermaine Jones hammered in an equaliser before Clint Dempsey bundled in what looked like being a winner nine minutes before full-time, only for Ronaldo to deliver a perfect cross for substitute Silvestre Varela to head home an equaliser deep into stoppage time and keep Portugal’s slim hopes of reaching the knockout rounds alive.
Ronaldo had struggled to make an impact until that point but the reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner refuted suggestions he is holding anything in reserve.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Whilst other teams tipped for success in Brazil have a stand-out player, none are as seemingly reliant on that individual performing as Portugal but Ronaldo believes their World Cup chances were always slim.
“Maybe we’re an average team,” he added.
“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.”
Despite their late leveller, Portugal are still reliant on other results helping them qualify through the group and if Germany and the United States draw, they will both advance at the expense of Paulo Bento’s side.
Tim Howard may have been beaten in the 94th minute but the United States goalkeeper feels they are in a place where they wanted to be heading into the tournament.
“We’re a little disappointed, but still optimistic,” Howard told FIFA.com
“We thought we’d put one foot in the Round of 16, but we are where we’d aimed to be before the tournament: going into the final game with a good chance of progressing.
“The coaching staff put in place a great game plan. Portugal didn’t cause us too many problems and we could have avoided both their goals.”