Portugal and Ronaldo Face Republic of Ireland in Final Test
With one last tuneup before the World Cup remaining, Portugal fans have to be feeling good about the recent news that Cristiano Ronaldo is finally training with the rest of team. This Monday's clinical bulletin was a only few lines long, and figured one name - goalkeeper Beto. Pepe and Raul Meireles also took part in this afternoon's team session, as Portugal gets ready to play the Republic of Ireland at Metlife stadium in New Jersey.
After watching Portugal's cynical performance against Mexico, it's hard to imagine Portugal will adopt the same conservative style Tuesday against Ireland. Don't expect the overall feel to change much, Paulo Bento will continue to manage the squad ahead of Portugal's first group stage game against Germany.
Ronaldo seems to have gotten over his injury issues, and to much of the Portuguese fans' delight he completed his second training session with the team this Monday afternoon.
With one of Real Madrid's physios on the Selecao's technical staff watching Real's meal ticket, there is reason to believe Ronaldo is on the path to full health, putting many Portuguese at ease. Ronaldo's playing time will most likely be limited, but getting his game feel back is critical to his recuperation, and a benchmark to the recuperation plan Portugal's medical staff has delineated for CR7.
As far as Meireles and Pepe, they may or may not see some minutes. Meireles returned one day earlier to full practice and could very well see minutes, Pepe may prove more difficult , as he has missed every single session Portugal has had in U.S. soil.
In Boston we saw Bento return to his habitual 4-3-3, don't expect a deviation from that this Tuesday against the Irish. In goal, Rui Patricio should finally make his camp debut, despite Eduardo's sensational performance against "El Tri". There is no indication that there is a goalkeeping battle going on, but if Eduardo gets the start, it'll be safe to say he has won it.
On defense, Bento should once again go to Joao Pereira and Bruno Alves, the biggest questions will be who will pair up with Alves and who will be on the left. While Pepe continues to progress into higher intensity levels, Ricardo da Costa and Neto are viable options; the latter had a very good game against Mexico. On the left side, it's very possible that Coentrao will return to his native position. Andre Almeida has been corresponding well to Bento's orders, but the Benfica man doesn't offer the "verticality" Coentrao brings to the left side.
In midfield, William Carvalho should get the start after resting against Mexico, while Moutinho and Veloso will depend on their recuperation levels after having played all of Friday's game. Much like Pepe, Meireles will depend on where he is with his fitness, as he was one of the players that didn't travel to Boston, and spent most of last week doing specific work with Portugal's physio staff.
On the wings, the biggest question is whether or not Ronaldo will get the start. In his Monday presser Bento stated that Ronaldo's participation in Tuesday's game was dependent on how he felt during Monday's training session. The question remains whether as a starter or coming off the bench. Nani should once again get the start, as the main goal is to get the Manchester United man to competitive rhythm. Varela and Vieirinha will have to wait on Ronaldo's health. Both have been average at best, and both know their chances to become the third winger choice remain heavily on their contributions during these warm ups.
Up front, Eder is making a very strong case for being the starter after the game he had against Mexico, but he faces competition from veteran Helder Postiga, who has been disappointing in Portugal's last two warm-ups. Hugo Almeida seems to be the odd man out, but i wouldn't be surprised if he gets minutes against Ireland in some shape or form.
It is Paulo Bento's last chance to make in game adjustments, and he hasn't had the full squad at his disposal, but he is confident that the team will be ready to compete when the time comes.