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Portugal in difficult World Cup group, says Ronaldo

December 29, 2013

DUBAI: Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo admitted on Saturday that pressure will be enormous for his Portugal side at next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil as he called their group “difficult”, while expectations in his home country are very high.

Speaking at an interview panel moderated by former Italian referee Pierluigi Collina at the Eighth Dubai International Sports Conference, the 28-year-old said Group ‘G’ was one of the toughest, because all four teams were strong, “and Germany in particular”.

Group ‘G’ also includes Ghana and the United States.

Ronaldo said: “The pressure will be high, because Portugal were several times close to winning in the last 10 years.”

In 2004, Portugal lost to Greece in the final in the European championships. At the World Cup 2006 in Germany, Portugal were beaten in the semi-finals and at Euro 2012, they reached the semi-finals but lost to eventual winners Spain.

“We lost against Spain in the penalties. That was bitter as there is also some luck in any penalties,” Ronaldo recalled.

The Real Madrid forward added that his personal goal next year besides winning the World Cup would be “to beat my own record of 2013 when I scored a total of 69 goals”.

“I always learn, I always work hard to improve. Of course, scoring goals is not everything, but without goals you are not going to win the match,” he said.

Asked by Collina about what he expected from a good referee, Ronaldo said: “There are referees you can speak with, others are less open. I prefer a referee to whom I can also speak during the match.”

Mater Al-Tayer, deputy chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, handed over the 2013 Globesoccer Player of the Year Award to Ronaldo.

Juventus manager Antonio Conte was named Globesoccer Coach of the Year; the Italian beating Rafa Benitez of Napoli and Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp to the title.

“This honour fills me with pride and I above all thank my players for helping me achieve this award,” declared Conte.

“If I won this trophy then the credit is to be split with my lads, without doubt.

“Will I get the FIFA Coach of the Year award? There’s a very long way to go, as you need to win inter-national trophies, for example as Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho did.

“Therefore let’s roll up our sleeves and in 2014 take the Europa League, whose final will be played at the Juventus Stadium. Then, next season, we resume our march on the Champions League.

Conte spoke alongside Russian manager Fabio Capello and Bayern Munich gaffer Guardiola.

Former Barcelona manager Guardiola discussed his legacy as a manager and stated that his success can be tied to that of Argentine forward, Lionel Messi.

“One of the highlights of my coaching career was managing Messi and I hope to work with youth players again like we did at Barcelona,” he said on the opening day of the two-day conference. “A Guardiola Era? You could say it was the Era of Messi.”

Guardiola won the Champions League twice and the La Liga three times with the Catalan club and disclosed his desire to form a youth academy at Bayern Munich that would rival Barcelona’s La Masia.

“My dream is to get back to training youth players,” he said. “What we were living through at Barca B was football in its purest form.”—Agencies