Published: Sun, June 18, 2017
Sports | By Mabel Barber

Portugal hoping Ronaldo can continue his good form in Russia

Portugal is hoping a red-hot Christiano Ronaldo can continue his sparkling form and help the European champions show that their victory at Euro 2016 wasn't a fluke. Ironically, it happened after Fernando Santos' team overcame Ronaldo's injury-enforced loss early in the game to win without their best player. "He is an idol, even for us players", admitted veteran defender Bruno Alves, the 35-year-old who has just signed for Scottish club Rangers. His presence on the touchline in the final, urging his teammates on with a heavily bandaged knee, highlighted the significance of the success for the Real Madrid forward.

Ronaldo has scored 18 goals in his last 11 matches, including two in Portugal's 3-0 win at Latvia in a European World Cup qualifier last week, the team's last match before the Confederations Cup opener against Mexico.

The Confederations Cup is the main warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup. But Ronaldo, 32, appeared fully focused while training with P o r t u g a l f o r S u n d a y 's Confederations Cup opener against Mexico in Russian Federation and later took to Instagram to post a picture with his finger to his lips - suggesting now was not the time to comment.

A good performance at the Confederations Cup will virtually secure him a fifth world player of the year award, equaling Lionel Messi.

Portugal won 2-1 the only time it faced Mexico in an official match, in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. "It's going to be handsome and will stay on our CV". "But football is a team sport and I think that we have a great squad to confront him".

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Real Madrid also gave their backing to Ronaldo, releasing a statement saying the club had "full confidence in our player Cristiano Ronaldo, who we understand has acted in accordance with the legality regarding compliance with his tax obligations". It is played by the continental champions plus the host nation and the World Cup victor.

Of the reports surrounding Ronaldo, Santos said that "you have to be careful about from where" they came from and refused to state that Portugal are the favourites for the Confederations Cup, suggesting instead that they are merely "a candidate".

Messi has suffered plenty of worldwide heartache with Argentina, losing the World Cup final in Brazil three years ago and also emerging as a runner-up in three of the last four Copa America tournaments. More glory here in Russian Federation will end any doubt about him winning a fifth Ballon d'Or.

Portugal is making its first appearance in the Confederations Cup, the eight-nation competition played by continental champions plus host Russian Federation and World Cup victor Germany.

Russian Federation kick off the eight nation tournament, described by world governing body FIFA as the "festival of champions", against New Zealand in St Petersburg on Saturday. And it will mean just as much as all the rest.

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