BRASILIA (Reuters) - World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo's hopes of continuing in the World Cup are hanging by a thread and will depend on an unlikely combination of results in Thursday's Group G games.
Ronaldo's Portugal must beat Ghana, preferably by several goals, to have any hope of progressing but must also hope the Germany-United States match does not end in a draw.
After winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, Ronaldo has had a miserable World Cup and has yet to hit the target.
He was suffering from tendinosis in his left knee in the run-up to the tournament and there is speculation that the problem has not yet cleared up.
After Portugal struggled to a 2-2 draw with the U.S. thanks to a last-gasp equalizer in their second game, Ronaldo suggested their chances had been overrated before the tournament.
"I never thought that we were going to win the World Cup," he told Portuguese media after the U.S. game.
"For me, it would have been easy, I could have not come to the World Cup and finished the season as European champion. But I’m going to stand up and be counted.”
"Portugal were never favorites, you just have to look at qualifying for this (World Cup). It was difficult from the start," he added.
Portugal scraped into the finals by winning a difficult two-legged playoff against Sweden, having finished a point behind Russia in their qualifying group.
"We have to be humble and know our capabilities. In addition, we have had other limitations such as the cases of Pepe (sent off against Germany) and Fabio Coentrao (injured)," said Ronaldo.
"At the moment, there are better national teams than ours."
Portugal and Ghana have one point each while Germany and the U.S have four and the latter pair will both definitely qualify if either match ends in a draw.
However, if neither game is drawn, it will come down to goal difference between the winner of Portugal-Ghana and the loser of Germany-U.S.
Germany have a goal difference of plus four, followed by the U.S. (plus one), Ghana (minus one) and Portugal (minus four) so the only realistic hope for the Portuguese is a Germany win.
By a little twist of irony, the nucleus of the Germany team comes from Bayern Munich, who Ronaldo helped humiliate in the Champions League two months ago.
Ronaldo scored twice as visitors Real Madrid inflicted a crushing 4-0 second-leg defeat on Bayern in their Champions League semi-final to win 5-0 on aggregate.
The rivalry between the two is long-running, so much so that Bayern are known as the "Black Beast" by Real fans, and the Germans dramatically beat Ronaldo's team on penalties at the Bernabeu in another semi-final in 2012.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Ken Ferris)