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Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to make his return to the field as Portugal takes on the Republic of Ireland at 7:45 tonight at MetLife Stadium in their last warm-up game before the World Cup begins.
The reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or award winner, an award giving to the best male player in the world, has missed Portugal’s last two matches due to tendonitis in his left knee. Portugal has been decent in his absence, playing Greece to a goalless draw, and defeating Mexico 1-0 on a stoppage time goal by defender Bruno Alves.
Though the Republic of Ireland did not qualify for the World Cup themselves, they should still provide a stern test for Portugal. Ireland is coming off back-to-back draws with Italy and Costa Rica, two teams both headed to Brazil.
“I don’t know what way they will approach it and whether they would risk Ronaldo in the game — but for us, it’s still a big test.” Ireland manager Martin O’Neill told The Daily Mail on the prospect of playing Ronaldo, the top goal scorer in La Liga this past season.
Ireland is in a state of rebuilding, and will be looking forward to having a strong showing against a top-class team like Portugal in what is expected to be a packed MetLife Stadium tonight.
Portugal manager, Paulo Bento will likely be cautious with Ronaldo, who Portugal will rely heavily on to make it out of Group G, who they are in with Germany, the U.S. and Ghana. However, Ronaldo may want to have some practice playing with his international teammates ahead of their opening match against the group favorites Germany on June 16.
"We still have a few mistakes that we need to correct before the World Cup.” Bento said, according to Goal.com. Portugal is considered by most to be the second best team in group G, though Bento recognizes it will not be easy to advance to the group stages.
"It's going to be a balanced group with four strong teams so it's going to be very difficult for us.” Bento made it clear everyone is focused on his team's immediate goal, to make it to the knockout stages, something they did in 2010 before being defeated by eventual champions Spain in the round of 16.
image courtesy of INFphoto.com