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BENTO BACKS FERNANDO

Portugal boss Paulo Bento has spoken about the possibility of FC Porto midfielder Fernando being called up for the national team squad at the World Cup 2014. Portugal have been given a tough group at the World Cup since they will be up against favourites Germany along with teams like Ghana and United States. Due to the presence of players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, Portugal are considered as favourites to seal the second qualifying spot. Despite this, Bento is insistent on taking his best squad possible and this may even involve calling up players who were not born in Portugal.

Fernando was born in Brazil and has represented the South American’s at under 20 level. However, he has not featured for them at a senior level, which makes him eligible to represent Portugal after having become a citizen only recently. He has been in Portugal since 2007. Competition is extremely intense to get into the national team squad especially after the recent run of good form. Portugal managed a 5-1 win over Cameroon in a recent international friendly match. They have matches against Greece, Mexico and Ireland before the start of the World Cup.

Bento has revealed that he did not select Fernando for the Cameroon match because of reasons other than football.

“Fernando hasn’t been and could not have been called up for reasons not related to sport. The same that happens with Fernando happens with any other players. The fact he isn’t here right now doesn’t mean he can’t be when the squad is called up for the World Cup,” said Bento. Buoyed by the form of star Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal have gone on a spree of five matches without defeat and this run includes four consecutive victories. Their first match at the World Cup will be against Germany.

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TOUGH GROUP

Portugal will have a tough World Cup group stages according to its manager Paulo Bento, who has also refused to accept that Germany will be the favourites to qualify for the knockout stages from this group. Portugal will be up alongside Germany, the USA, and Ghana in the group stages. This has already been dubbed as the group of death due to the strength of the opposition. Portugal will go to the competition with Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo spearheading their attack, but that does not mean that they can qualify for the knockout stages easily.

Germany come into the tournament as the favourites to win the title after having come close in recent major tournaments. Bento, though, thinks that all the national teams that have qualified for the World Cup are very similar in terms of strength. However, he thinks that Portugal are better in one regard – the presence of Ronaldo. The 28-year-old was recently crowned as the best player in the world ahead of Lionel Messi. He has scored more than 60 goals in 2013 alone, while his form has shown no signs of slowing down in 2014 as well.

Portugal have not done well in the qualification stages for the last major tournaments. Bento accepts that he is confident of success at the World Cup 2014.

“It is a difficult group, I have to say. The level of the top national teams is similar. It is very equal and it will be tough, but we have one point in our favour; we have the best player in the world (Ronaldo). Cristiano works well at everything. He is a fantastic professional and now he is an ambitious player. He always wants to be a better player. It is incredible, but he is still improving as a player and everybody expects a lot from the best player in the world,” said Bento.

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