Despite pre-tournament expectations, Cristiano Ronaldo has maintained he never saw Portugal as legitimate World Cup contenders this summer.
Following a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany, the side could only manage a last-gasp 2-2 draw with the USA on Sunday, leaving them on the brink of elimination going into their final group game against Ghana.
Portugal now need both a thumping win on Wednesday and for either Germany or the USA to claim all three points in Group G’s other matchup in order to progress to the last 16, but Ronaldo already appears resigned to an early exit.
‘Maybe we're an average team,’ he told Fox Sports. ‘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,’ he added. ‘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.’
Finishing behind Russia in their World Cup qualifying group, Portugal needed a playoff win over Sweden to make it to Brazil, but the mere presence of the Real Madrid forward in their lineup still saw them enter the tournament as one of the more fancied sides.
With their superstar captain clearly far from 100% fit however, having been suffering with a knee problem since the end of the domestic season, as well as tournament-ending injuries and suspension to Fabio Coentrao, Hugo Almeida and Pepe, respectively, the squad’s lack of quality in depth has been all too exposed.
Having helped guide Portugal to the semi-finals in 2006 and to the last 16 in 2010, 2014 was supposed to be 29-year-old Ronaldo’s defining World Cup, but the reigning Ballon d’Or-winner appears set for his most disappointing summer yet with the national side.