Ronaldo's ego, Portuguese press in fine form

Portugal's national soccer team player Cristiano Ronaldo attends a news conference at the Arena...

Portugal's national soccer team player Cristiano Ronaldo attends a news conference at the Arena Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, June 15, 2014. (REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:58 PM ET

SALVADOR, Brazil -- The World Cup, as many describe it, is bigger than words.

Cristiano Ronaldo is bigger than both, apparently.

"I come first," Ronaldo said a day before Portugal meets Germany here in Salvador.

Soccer, he added, "comes after that."

Portuguese press were concerned Sunday night inside the Arena Fonte Nova when "the best player in the world" was an hour late for a pre-match press conference.

Ronaldo has been rushing to return from a lingering thigh issue that has seen him miss at least a portion of Portugal's preparation.

When he finally arrived Sunday, media shamelessly applauded.

I was half-waiting for them to remove his shoes and massage his feet.

Like Ronaldo said: "He comes first."

His head coach, Paulo Bento, was asked how important Ronaldo is to Portugal. Not the team, the country.

That's how much the 29-year-old national treasure means to the Iberian team and its people.

A collective sigh of relief could be felt when he confirmed his status ahead of Monday afternoon's match.

"I'm 100%," Ronaldo said.

"I'd like to be at 110%. If I'm not feeling well, I'm the first to tell the coach I can't play. If I feel anything during the match, I'm the first to tell the coach."

The entire room gazed at him like he was Superman, as if he carried the hope of a nation on his shoulders.

"I'm an additional player," Ronaldo said. "I can make a difference, but I can't carry the whole team. I just want to help. (Monday) we have a match against a favourite to win (the World Cup)."

As the No. 2 team in the world, the Germans are expected to top Group G, a.k.a. the Group of Death. And it all starts in a city that just witnessed a replay of 2010's Cup final.

For German netminder Manuel Neuer, though, every match in Group G is like a final, beginning Monday.

"We have three final matches," Neuer said. "Players and fans need to be aware."

The United States and Ghana meet in Group G's other affair Monday night.

"Tomorrow we will know more and know where we are positioned," Neuer added. "It's not easy to just swagger through (the tournament)."

The Germans have done all they can to give themselves the best chance.

While the Portuguese were one of the last sides to arrive in Brazil ahead of the tournament, the Germans have been comfortably holed up in a brand new nearby resort built by a German entrepreneur.

It features more than a dozen homes, a soccer field and all the relaxation German head coach Joachim Low could ask for.

"Preparation was important," Low said. "This preparation has yielded a great team spirit. The team knows what's at stake. This is a task that requires all 23 players."

Injury concerns for Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger have been put to bed. Low confirmed Sunday he'll have a full roster to select from Monday afternoon, when the weather at game time is expected to deteriorate.

While rain is likely, game-time temperatures (25C) should be to Portugal's liking after Bento finished Sunday's talk with reporters by lambasting FIFA organizers for scheduling a game so early in the afternoon, when temperatures are the warmest.

He compared it to the U.S. tournament in 1994.

"That is harmful," Bento said. "It's harmful for everyone. I believe it's not the best way to produce football."

For Bento, afternoon kickoff times will discourage the best from showcasing what his country has been waiting four years to see -- Ronaldo, the best player in the world, guide his team through the most prestigious tournament the world has ever known.

If he is indeed healthy, that is.

"I don't have to show anyone anything," Ronaldo responded after being asked if he still needs to perform on this stage. "If you look at my resume, I have no words for that question."

Because, as the press conference started, few words can describe what he's been able to accomplish everywhere else.


Videos

Photos