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All reports by Ramatsiyi Moholoa
LAUSANNE, Switzerland - There will be no perfect 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa without Cristiano Ronaldo spearheading Portugal's attack, said Pepe, one of their influential players yesterday.
Speaking ahead of their international clash with Bafana Bafana last night, the Real Madrid defender said Portugal would definitely be among the 32 nations at the quadrennial soccer spectacle.
Guided by former Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Queiroz, Portugal are in danger of not making the trip to South Africa in June next year as they are lying a disappointing third on the log in Group 1 of the European qualifiers.
The Portuguese have collected six points from five games, with Denmark and Hungary first and second on 10 points each from four and five games, respectively.
Portugal have to beat Albania in their next game on June 6 if they are to remain in the race to qualify for the first ever World Cup on African soil.
But Brazilian-born Pepe, whose real name is Lima Ferreira Kleper Laverran, said: "We have some great players in the world and there is no way we can disappoint our friends, relatives and fans in southern Africa.
"Things have not gone quite well, but you have to remember that our coach is trying various combinations because there are several new players who have been brought into the team.
"We will soon be back on track to qualify. There is no way we cannot be part of the history taking place in South Africa in 2010. It is the dream of every soccer player to feature in the World Cup finals. South Africa is a great country."
Pepe's sentiments were echoed by Joao Mountinho, the captain of Portuguese soccer giants Sporting Lisbon, who said: "We just have to do well in the remaining games, there is no way we won't qualify for the finals in South Africa."
Queiroz, who joined Portugal last year after quitting his job as assistant coach at Manchester United, is confident Portugal will play in the 2010 World Cup finals.
"We have all the possibilities to be in South Africa in 2010, the team is there and we just have to do well in the qualifiers. I believe in this team. Right now we are using the games like the one against Bafana Bafana to build the mental strength of the players."