CAMPINAS, Brazil (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo strolled off a plane, lifted a hand and coolly pointed his finger to acknowledge a group of fans who were shouting out his name.
The Portugal and Real Madrid star arrived in Brazil to excited yelps of “Ronaldo!” on Wednesday, showing no signs of the left leg injuries that had troubled him in the lead up to the World Cup.
Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammates flew in a day after a 5-1 win over Ireland in an international friendly in the United States. The victory was his comeback game after two weeks on the sidelines with tendinitis in the knee and a thigh problem.
Wearing his cap back-to-front, he casually made his way across the tarmac at an airport near Campinas, a city around 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Brazil’s business capital Sao Paulo and where Portugal will be based.
On the other side of the runway, construction workers in red uniforms abandoned their jobs temporarily and lined up along a fence, straining their eyes to try and catch a glimpse of him.
Ronaldo started in the easy win over Ireland in New Jersey on Tuesday night and played 65 minutes, easing fears over his fitness for Portugal’s opening World Cup game against Germany on Monday. Defender Fabio Coentrao said victory in Portugal’s final tuneup was an important boost, as was Ronaldo’s recovery.
“Of course, a 5-1 victory has given us a lot of confidence,” Coentrao said.
When a reporter jumped in to ask about Ronaldo being fit again, Coentrao replied “that is also very important for us.”
Coach Paulo Bento, who wore a team tracksuit as he led the players off the plane, didn’t talk directly about Ronaldo’s return from injury in East Rutherford, his first game since the May 24 Champions League final. Bento did say there was a general feeling of ease in the camp.
“We are trying to rest as much as we can but still we have to be ready for the first game that we play,” Bento said. “We have come through a process and we have had some difficulties at certain points. It has been a bit more complicated than usual but we have made it.”
The coach also called for some local support for his team.
To encourage that and to get off on the right foot, Portugal’s plane flew the Portuguese and Brazilian flags side by side out of the window of the cockpit as it taxied on the tarmac.
“We hope for, we wish for and we desire the support of the Brazilian people,” Bento told reporters.
Portugal faces Germany, the United States and Ghana in Group G.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP