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Portugal's Simao quashes doubts over fitness

By Shrikesh Laxmidas

MAGALIESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) - Portugal winger Simao Sabrosa Saturday quashed doubts about his fitness for the World Cup, saying he is fully recovered after a long season at club level with Atletico Madrid.

The 30-year-old played 70 games, almost all of them in the starting line up, in a season in which the Spanish side won the Europa League and reached the final of the Spanish Cup.

The feeling among most Portugal fans and media has been that Simao was lacking pace at the end of the season and in the friendlies, something that became a bigger cause for alarm when in-form winger Nani was ruled out of the finals due to injury.

"I've finally recovered. At the moment I am at 100 percent and it's been some time since the last (competitive) game which was the Spanish Cup final," Simao told reporters at the Portugal training camp.

"We've been working well and I feel good physically and psychologically," he added.

With 81 caps, Simao's experience is expected to earn him a start against the Ivory Coast in Portugal's Group G opener on Tuesday at Port Elizabeth.

RENEWED COMPETITION

He faces renewed competition after Danny put himself in contention with a fine display against Mozambique in the final warm-up match.

Simao is not taking anything for granted.

"Despite the fact there was a lot debate on whether it would be me or Nani playing, right now there are 23 of us here and there is no guarantee that I will start as I don't own a place on the wing, we have many players who can play there," he said.

Cristiano Ronaldo, however, does own the other wing, despite having failed to score in the qualifiers and the friendlies.

"Cristiano is also well. I hope he can play at his top level at the World Cup as Portugal is under huge pressure to match or better what was achieved with 2006's fourth place," he said.

(Editing by Jon Bramley)