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Maybe we’re average: Cristiano Ronaldo with some real talk after Portugal’s latest stumble

Jun 23, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo bows his head as he reacts to a play during the group G World Cup soccer match between the United States and Portugal at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Sunday, June 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) AP

The legacies of Eusebio, Luis Figo, and Cristiano Ronaldo have created a lofty, unfair reputation for Portugal, one the team’s play has failed to back up. The nation’s never won a World Cup or European title, and ahead of the last four major tournaments, the Seleccao have needed playoffs to qualify. For a country of 10.5 million people, Portugal produces an admirable amount of talent, but those talents have created a reputation that outstretched their results.

That reality’s been hammered home over the first 180 minutes of this summer’s World Cup. After a 4-0 loss to Germany, Portugal needed a 95th minute goal to salvage a draw against the United States. Considering Paulo Bento’s team needed a major error from American defender Geoff Cameron to score its first goal of the tournament, Portugal’s single point through two games might overstate the quality of their performances.

According to the team’s biggest star, those results may not be a fluke. While many think of Portugal as a world elite, captain Cristiano Ronaldo sees his team as below the standard of the world’s best.

Here’s Ronaldo, from the Press Association’s Monday report:

“Maybe we’re an average team … We have a very limited team and we are not at the best level. This does not enable you to beat top teams.

“There are no miracles. We knew we would have a tough group, with perhaps teams better than us …

“I’m not a hypocrite, I never thought we could win the tournament.”

That doesn’t mean Portugal hasn’t been a disappointed. While they’re not on the same level as Germany, the Seleccao were rightly favored to get out of what their inflated reputation helped project as the Group of Death. It would have been more accurate to depict the group as one World Cup favorite (Germany) with three teams whose complementing strengths and weaknesses made for one of the tournament’s competitive groups.

Perhaps with the virtue of hindsight, that’s easy to say, but Portugal’s résumé also provided reason to doubt. Besides a semifinal run at Euro 2012, there’s little the team has done with its current generation that suggests they’re close to Germany.

‘Average’ may be harsh on Ronaldo’s part, but after two disappointing results, it may have been time for some real talk. If anybody within Portugal’s squad was buying into their reputation, their captains set them straight. The Seleccao have a lot of room to improve.

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