Reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo believes South Africa could cause a few upsets at the World Cup next year - providing the fans get behind the team.Speaking to KickOff.com at the launch of the Castrol Rankings in Madrid, Spain, the Portuguese international said South Africa should learn from his country who, against all odds, made it to the final of the 2004 European Championships on home soil.
“It will be difficult, but they are playing at home, so motivation will be high,” he told KickOff.com. “I can give you an example, in 2004, Portugal played at home. No-one was talking about us, but we went all the way to the final. Maybe South Africa can also surprise at the World Cup.”
Concerning his thoughts on Bafana, the Real Madrid star said, “I have played against South Africa. They are a good side. They try to play all the time and never change how they want to play the game.
“They have good players – I know very well [Steven] Pienaar, who I faced in the English league. But it’s not just him. They have many good, sharp, strong players. They can surprise.”
Ronaldo was cagey when asked about what he expects from the first African World Cup, saying for now his thoughts are on helping Portugal get through their two-legged play-off with Bosnia-Herzegovina later this month.
“I’ve never been to South Africa before, but we have not yet qualified, so I’m only thinking about Bosnia for now," he said. "It will be very difficult. Bosnia are a good team and we have to respect them. After that, if we have qualified, we will start thinking about the World Cup.”
However, Ronaldo does believe an African team can challenge for honours, adding, “Africa always has good, strong teams with great character. It will be very interesting. I look forward to seeing how they perform at the World Cup.”