MAGALIESBURG, South Africa (AFP) - Winger Simao said on Saturday Portugal could beat five-time champions Brazil if they had to in order to qualify from the "Group of Death" but admitted he wanted to avoid Spain in the next phase.
The Portuguese, semi-finalists at the 2006 World Cup, are battling for qualification with Brazil and Ivory Coast, with North Korea the dark horses in Group G, and Simao said they were anxious to get their tournament under way.
|Simao Sabrosa adjusts the microphone during a press conference at Bekker High School in Magaliesburg on June 12, 2010.|
"Portugal have some of the best players in Europe with a lot of ambition and it's a very united and strong team," the Atletico Madrid player told reporters at Portugal's rural training base outside Johannesburg.
"It's always important to start the World Cup in the best way with a win. We don't want to face Brazil in the third game needing a win but if we need to win, why not? Because we have beaten them several times before."
He said Portugal, who face the Ivory Coast in their first match on Tuesday, wanted to avoid Spain in the last 16, which would happen if Spain topped Group H and Portugal finished as runners-up in their group.
"It will be difficult if Portugal face Spain in the last 16 because they are the European champions," the 30-year-old said. Spain are hot favourites to top Group H.
And he sought to quash rumours that he did not get on with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, saying he was good friends with the Read Madrid player.
"It's a lie and I don't understand it. You can ask Ronaldo and he will confirm that."
Portugal needed a play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina to reach South Africa after a qualifying campaign in which midfielder-cum-striker Ronaldo failed to score in seven matches before being sidelined by injury.
Where to play the "golden boy" will occupy much of coach Carlos Queiroz's time with the options facing the former assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United including using him in a wide or central midfield role or as a lone striker.
Portugal breezed through a 3-0 warm-up victory over Mozambique on Tuesday, but the match was overshadowed by the loss of Nani following an injury in training.
Simao admitted the Manchester United winger would be a loss but said: "Of course he is a good player but unfortunately he is injured. We are sad but we have a lot of good players that can also play in our position."
Simao said he was not certain to be in the starting eleven as there were many good players pushing for places.
"I'm very happy to be part of this 23. We are preparing for the World Cup in a good way and instead of thinking about our opponents we are thinking about ourselves.
"We hare working hard. I am fit, all the players are fit. I feel 100 percent."