By CAITLIN MURRAY
Cristiano Ronaldo is back and looking primed to help Portugal take on Group G in Brazil.
The superstar striker returned to the starting lineup on Tuesday after injury as Portugal thrashed Ireland, 5-1, in their final World Cup warm-up. Ronaldo played 65 minutes, his first playing time since May 24, when he helped Real Madrid clinch the Champions League trophy over Atletico.
Portugal had played two World Cup tune-up matches since then, a scoreless draw with Greece and 1-0 victory over Mexico. But it appears the left knee tendinosis and thigh injury that sidelined Ronaldo is better.
“I think he had a good match,” Portugal manager Paulo Bento said via translator to press at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. “Considering especially that he was without competing for a few weeks, I thought he did well.”
As it turned out, Portugal didn’t really need Ronaldo to get on the board quickly Tuesday. The Portuguese scored a mere two minutes into the match as an unmarked Hugo Almeida easily headed away a cross from Silvestre Varela.
But in the 20th minute, it was a cross from Ronaldo that was deflected by the Irish and bounced past the line for an own goal. Ronaldo had a hand in Portugal’s third goal — his header was blocked by goalkeeper David Forde, but Almeida volleyed the rebound in.
Ireland managed a goal from James McClean in the 52nd minute, but Portugal responded with late goals by Vieirinha and Fábio Coentrão, both assisted by Nani.
Portugal will begin their World Cup campaign Monday against Germany. Portugal faces the United States on June 22.