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Confederations Cup: Ronaldo Casts Aside Uncertainty to Inspire Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo scored against Russia on Wednesday, lifting Portugal to a 1-0 victory over the host nation in this summer’s Confederation Cup. Portugal, the reigning European champions, are currently looking like strong favorites to lift this summer’s cup.

But the biggest story in soccer at the moment isn’t Ronaldo’s participation in the competition that’s held every four years as a kind of dry run for the World Cup. It’s the ongoing uncertainty about his future that’s surfaced, after it emerged last week that player had made an “irreversible” decision to leave Real Madrid after being accused of tax fraud by the Spanish government.

Ronaldo’s reported dissatisfaction has put clubs across Europe on alert, with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, and any number of Chinese Super League outfits having expressed interest. The most tangible offer seems to be emanating from PSG, with the Ligue 1 outfit reportedly ready to splash out upwards of $227M for the 32-year-old.

Meanwhile in the Confederations Cup, Ronaldo’s Portugal are tied with Mexico on four points at the top of Group A ahead of Saturday’s clash with New Zealand. After drawing with El Tri in their tournament opener, Portugal are well positioned to progress past the group stage into next week’s knockout round.

Russia need a result against Mexico on Saturday, otherwise the host nation look likely to go out in the first round. New Zealand, a nation that holds the unfortunate distinction of having appeared in four Confederations Cup without winning a match, look set to maintain their record, despite giving Mexico a bit of a scare in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss. Mexico, who had to fight (literally) to get past New Zealand, also look likely to progress to the next round.

Over in Group B, world champions Germany are fighting it out with South American champs Chile for top spot after the teams drew 1-1 on Thursday. Alexis Sanchez gave Chile the lead, capitalizing on a mistake by his Arsenal teammate, Shkrodan Mustafi, and becoming La Roja’s all-time leading scorer in the process.

Germany, who are fielding what’s been described as a “C Team,” equalized when Jonas Hector squared the ball for Lars Stindl, who burst through the Chile defense to slot it home.

The result left the two sides even atop Group B. Australia and Cameroon also drew on Thursday, leaving them with just one point each in third and fourth spot respectively. Germany and Chile will vie for top spot in the final round of the group stage, as La Roja face Australia, and Der Mannschaft meet Cameroon in the Sunday fixtures this weekend.

Meanwhile, the ongoing questions about the tournament’s star player will continue. Especially in light of reports that Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane is intent on signing Kylian Mbappe. Bringing the teenage Monaco striker to the Bernabeu would require clearing out one of Madrid’s star players, if not Ronaldo, then Karim Benzema or Gareth Bale.

Ronaldo has been called to give testimony in a Madrid tax court next month. He’s also scheduled a meeting with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez after the conclusion of the tournament. Ronaldo is reportedly prepared to walk into that meeting with a “money no object” offer from PSG in his back pocket.

So while Perez made the right kind of public reassurances this week, it seems the uncertainty over the four-time World Player of the Year’s future is likely to continue at least through the duration of the Confederations Cup, and perhaps beyond.

Watch the final round of the Confederations Group Stage this weekend:

New Zealand vs. Portugal – Saturday June 24, 11:00 a.m. EST on Fox Sports 1

Mexico vs. Russia – Saturday June 24, 11:00 a.m. EST on Fox

Germany vs. Cameroon – Sunday June 25, 11:00 a.m. EST on Fox

Chile vs. Australia – Sunday June 25, 11:00 a.m. EST on Fox Sports 1