Portugal are sweating over the fitness of Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of tomorrow’s encounter with Iran.
A hamstring injury again kept the 21-year-old out of full team training yesterday, making him a serious doubt for the second Group D match in Frankfurt.
Skipper Luis Figo has voiced his optimism that Ronaldo will be able to play.
“I think he should be ready to go,” said Figo, who warned not to take the Iranians lightly.
“We certainly do not expect this to be an easy task because in a World Cup there are no easy matches. If Iran lose, they will be out.”
Figo is expected to return to right midfield to accommodate Deco’s comeback from an ankle injury.
Luiz Felipe Scolari had decided to rest the influential Deco for the opening 1-0 victory over former colony Angola, but the Barcelona star has declared himself fit.
“I have no pain any more and I feel much better,” said Deco.
Scolari has taken hits from all ends for his decision not to play the 28-year-old in the opener.
“The injury could have got worse,” Scolari reasoned. “But had it been a decisive match, he would have played.”
Scolari has also been criticised for adopting an efficient style of play rather than an entertaining one, which left only little room for excitement in the dull opener against Angola.
“All that matters is a win and not how we do it,” vowed Scolari.
Figo has now jumped to his coach´s defence.
“He is the best coach we have ever had,” argued the Inter Milan midfielder. “Under his command a lot of positive things have happened. I would have loved it if he had taken over sooner.”
Midfielder Costinha has praised the positive atmosphere within the Portuguese camp.
“Never before have I felt such a good spirit,” he lauded. “Everyone dreams of winning theWorld Cup. I can’t say if we will win it or not but we will work to try to make it happen.”
Iran have been bothered by an internal discussion over the role of veteran striker Ali Daei.
The national team legend, who has been some way shy of his best form in recent months, cited a back injury as an excuse for his poor showing in the opening 3-1 loss to Mexico.
Not just to the surprise of his team-mates, Daei has now made a u-turn, signalling his availability for tomorrow’s match.
“The problems are gone,” he said. “I am fully fit and have no problems in playing against Portugal on Saturday.”
National team coach Branko Ivankovic has offered his full backing to the 37-year-old
“It is not right to make him the scapegoat,” said the coach. “He has always been and is a very valuable player for us.”
Midfielder Ferydoon Zandi also looks set to return from a thigh injury.