Football

Ronaldo: We can qualify for semi-finals

Portugal captain says there's no cause for alarm despite being held by Mexico

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo insists there is no reason to panic following their opening draw in the Confederations Cup yesterday morning (SIngapore time).

A stoppage-time header by Hector Moreno saw Mexico equalise to make it 2-2 after Portugal thought they had won it with Cedric Soares' deflected shot four minutes from time.

The result handed the early initiative in Group A to hosts Russia, who beat New Zealand 2-0 a day earlier.

However, with two teams qualifying for the semi-finals from the four-team pool and Russia up next, Ronaldo is confident the European champions can quickly improve their fortunes.

"It was not the result we wanted, the team had almost won and we suffered in the last minutes, but this is football," said Ronaldo, who is under more scrutiny than usual playing for his country after it emerged on Friday that he wants to quit Real Madrid and leave Spain as a result of an investigation into his tax affairs.

"The team continue to believe in qualification, we have great possibilities, because there are still two games left."

Ronaldo added: "We are calm and we have to think about the next game.

"We have to win, because if we win the next game, we will be one step away from qualifying (for the semi-finals). We do not have to sound the alarm."

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio was satisfied with his team's performance and particularly the way they kept Ronaldo quiet - even if he did somewhat strangely still win the Man-of-the-Match award for his only two pieces of positive intervention: hitting the crossbar and providing the assist for Ricardo Quaresma's opening goal.

Osorio said: "We played the European champions on equal terms, we generated chances but couldn't finish them.

"We also managed to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check.

"I think it was a very good result for Mexico."

Portugal boss Fernando Santos rued the concession of a late equaliser, but also gave credit to the opponents.

He said: "We played a team that has very good, technical players.

"At the beginning, we couldn't enjoy good control of the ball, but then, we managed to balance things out and could have won it in the end.

"In the end, the result was fair as Mexico also played well".

Portugal had a goal ruled out for offside by the video assistant referee prior to Quaresma's opener and match official Nestor Pitana also felt the need to refer Soares' effort for a second opinion.

With no communication to players or fans why referrals were being made, there was a slight sense of uncertainty and confusion and, while Santos accepted that was to be expected with new technology, he found it frustrating.

He said: "It's the new rule. If you bring benefits to football, fine. But I do not think anyone can see this new rule (working) very well yet."

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich clarified yesterday that reports linking Ronaldo with a possible move to the German champions if the Portuguese decided to leave Real were a hoax.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness has pledged a big-name signing in the close season and Italian media had reported in recent days they were interested in Ronaldo.

"We are used to a lot of speculation about possible comings and goings during the transfer period," said Rummenigge in a club statement with the headline "Hoax of the Day for the Ronaldo rumours".

"As a rule, we do not comment on these rumours but, now in the case of Cristiano Ronaldo, we want to make it clear once and for all that this rumour lacks any foundation and must be confined to the realms of fables." - WIRE SERVICES