Postcard from Brazil

Is Cristiano Ronaldo Out for Portugal's Match with U.S.?

Jozy Altidore has a hamstring strain and could miss Sunday's match, but concerns about his status pale in comparison to the personnel problems facing Portugal. And yes: Cristiano Ronaldo is rumored to be out.
BY John Godfrey Posted
June 18, 2014
4:41 PM
SAO PAOLO—A light drizzle is starting to fall on this massive metropolis, transforming the already-overcast skies into a slightly darker shade of gray.

If this level of precipitation represents the amount of bad news that the U.S. received in its 2-1 victory over Ghana—Jozy Altidore injured his hamstring and may miss the game; Clint Dempsey suffered a broken nose and likely will be hampered—Portugal is facing the meteorological equivalent of a monsoon.

Let's take them in chronological order, shall we?

28th Minute: Hugo Almeida—Out

The Portuguese forward with the Brooklyn hipster mustache, Almeida is typically the second player mentioned when soccer aficionados insist that Portugal has more scoring threats than a certain Ballon d'Or winner. (Nani, a disappointment of late, is often the first.)

And it's true—Almeida is a legitimate threat.

Or rather, he was. The burly 30-year-old striker, who has 19 goals in 56 international appearances for Portugal, pulled up lame in the 28th minute of his team's humiliating 4-0 loss to Germany. According to a team doctor, Almeida's hamstring injury will cost him a minimum of 10 days, which means he will be on the sidelines for the U.S. match and against Ghana four days afterward.

Helder Postiga, who plays his club soccer for Lazio, is a 31-year-old veteran and the likely replacement. Eder, 21, who has made just nine appearances for Portugal, could also see some action.

37th Minute: Pepe—Out

Sometimes a reputation for being a hothead is fully justified. For Pepe, the six-foot-two central defender who plays his club soccer for Real Madrid, it absolutely is.

  • In 2009 he earned a 10-game ban for pushing Getafe's Francisco Casquero to the ground and then kicking him.

  • In 2011 he was sent off in a Champions League semifinal against Barcelona.

  • A year later he stomped on Lionel Messi in a Real Madrid-Barcelona clash.

    Against Germany, Pepe swung his arm toward German striker Thomas Muller, and made contact. Muller fell to the ground in a heap, clearly embellishing his agony. And Pepe took exception.

    He leaned over the German star and clearly headbutted Muller. The ref saw it. The red card came out. And Pepe is expected to miss multiple games for his violent outburst.

    The man who replaced Pepe, Ricardo Costa, is smaller, older, and far less fearsome. Clint Dempsey, Aron Johannsson, and the rest of the American strike force will be OK with that.

    65th Minute: Fabio Coentrao—Out

    The Real Madrid left back, seen here running before he was stretchered off against Germany, is another huge loss for Portugal.

    According to the Portuguese soccer federation, the 26-year0old suffered a second-degree strain on the adductor muscle in his right thigh. A press release confirmed the bad news: "Due to the severity of the injury, he will be unfit for competitive football for a period which extends beyond the duration of the World Cup." Andre Almeida, a 21-year-old with just six international appearances to his name, replaced the wily Coentrao. It's another huge drop-off for the Portuguese.

    Portugal Training: Cristiano Ronaldo...?

    Let's be clear about something: Cristiano Ronaldo could still play for Portugal on Sunday. He might score five goals against the United States. And he could go on to win the 2014 Golden Boot award.

    But it doesn't look good.

    The Daily Mail, not exactly the most reliable news outlet in the world, has some excellent photos from Portugal's training today.

    Do they suggest that Ronaldo is nursing a left knee injury? Absolutely.

    Do they confirm that the Real Madrid superstar will miss Sunday's match against the United States? Not even a little.

    Players ice body parts all of the time, and photographs can be cropped and captioned to say just about anything. Don't read too much into the rumors about Ronaldo's demise. But it is worth pointing out that he may not be at 100% if he does make the starting lineup. That in itself is good news for the Stars and Stripes.

    The latest hubub about Ronaldo's distressed left knee tendon is that his personal physician has chimed in on the topic: Playing on it could cause Ronaldo permanent damage, according to various reports, thus jeopardizing Ronaldo's (very lucrative) career. Is it true? Did he really say that? I have no idea.

    But it certainly makes things interesting during this six-day lull between U.S. matches. In the media room down here in Sao Paolo, everybody was discussing the possibility of a Ronaldo-less match, whether it would give the Americans too much confidence ahead of the game, and what the latest developments were.

    Sometimes it rains, sometimes it pours. But sometimes it's barely a drizzle.

    What do you make of Portugal's personnel woes? Happy about it? Disappointed? Confused like the rest of us? Give us your take in the Comments below.

    John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.
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