By Gary Lim
EVERY World Cup has its Group of Death and it is just Cristiano Ronaldo's luck that Portugal belong there this time around.
No other team comes with a World Cup pedigree purer than Brazil.
Then, there's Ivory Coast, everyone's dark horses. Minnows North Korea are the remaining team in Group G, but the damage could already be done by the time Portugal get to them.
What a drastic change of fortunes from four years ago, when Portugal cruised past Mexico, Angola and Iran in the group phase in Germany as expected.
While Brazil may be one of the hot favourites for the World Cup in South Africa, Ronaldo has issued a warning to the Samba Boys.
He looked to Brazil's two losses in their last three head-to-head meetings as proof that Portugal have what it takes to overcome the five-time world champions.
Said the 25-year-old Real Madrid star: "It will be tough to come up against Brazil.
"It will be difficult for Portugal but Portugal will have a fantastic tournament.
"I talk a lot about the World Cup with my Real Madrid team-mate Kaka.
"With their experience, Brazil are the favourites to win the tournament. But Kaka respects Portugal because Brazil have lost twice to Portugal.
"Brazil have to respect Portugal."
Portugal defeated Brazil 2-1 in a friendly in Porto in 2003, and followed that up with another 2-0 friendly win in London in 2007.
However, Brazil thrashed Portugal 6-2 in their last friendly match at home two years ago.
While Brazil are likely to pose the most problems for Portugal, Ronaldo feels that it is dangerous to dismiss the other group opponents, particularly Ivory Coast.
The Elephants can boast of several players plying their trade at top European clubs, including Chelsea's Didier Drogba, Barcelona's Yaya Toure and Manchester City's Kolo Toure.
Ronaldo said: "In my opinion, we are in the most difficult group of the World Cup.
"It's not just Brazil.
"Ivory Coast are a fantastic team. We must beat them, especially since we play them in our first group game."
This will be Ronaldo's second World Cup, having helped Portugal to the semi-finals in Germany four years ago.
But he has a bigger responsibility than before - he has been entrusted with the captain's armband.
However, Ronaldo is taking it in his stride.
He believes that he has the leadership qualities to lead Portugal. He said: "I think you just have to be yourself.
"I'm not going to change because I am captain of Portugal.
"I think the responsibility is the same whether you are captain or not.
"I try to be myself, I try to help my friends, my colleagues, and try to be natural.
"Everyone knows what you are going to do on a pitch, and I try to help in any way I can."
This article was first published in The New Paper.