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Soccer-I'm no hot-head, says Portugal's Pepe

Reuters

By Patrick Johnston

BRASILIA, June 25 (Reuters) - Portugal defender Pepe denied suggestions he was a hot-head and said it was still possible for this team to get through to the World Cup last 16, adding he believed in miracles.

Portugal need a convincing win over Ghana in their final Group G clash on Thursday to stand any chance of making it through to the next round as well as a favourable result in the other match between Germany and the United States.

Germany and the United States, who each have four points in Group G, meet in Recife and can both qualify for the second round if they draw.

Pepe was undeterred by the size of the challenge for his side, who were thumped 4-0 by Germany and only salvaged a late 2-2 draw with the U.S.

"I believe in miracles. I think it is possible for us. We know its difficult but we have to fight," Pepe told reporters at the Brasilia national stadium on Wednesday.

"We have to play our game regardless of what happens in Germany v USA, we are going to play our game, get the win... and bring honour to the Portugal jersey.

"Our idea is to win the game and after we will see what happens," he added, dismissing concerns that Germany and the U.S. would only play to draw.

"We are all professionals, we should not enter into this, we have to respect this magic that is football, it hasn't occurred to us that this could happen."

The Real Madrid defender is available for selection against the Africans having missed Sunday's 2-2 draw with the United States after being sent off for a headbutt on Thomas Mueller in the opening loss against Germany.

His reaction was the latest indiscretion in a long career of volatile moments but the Brazilian-born 31-year-old denied he lost control in the 37th minute of the Germany clash.

"Never a hot head," he said, correcting a journalist who had dared to ask about the incident.

"I feel sad because I put my team in a complicated situation.

"It was a very harsh penalty, there was a penalty we didn't get, they could have sent off the central defender or left back of the Germany team."

Asked if he was concerned that his actions had damaged his reputation, Pepe shot back.

"My club always backs me, lots of Portuguese support me and this gives me strength to overcome the difficulties," he said.

"I always made it clear, since 2006 when I made myself available for Portugal, because I owe the Portuguese, I will play with my heart, I will play my best, I feel just another Portuguese, that is clear to me."

Ricardo Costa stepped in to take Pepe's place in the draw with the U.S., where Silvestre Varela's 95th minute header staved off elimination.

Pepe praised his deputy's performance against the Americans but the experienced defender, who said he would not retire from international duty whatever happens, is expected to be recalled by coach Paulo Bento.

"There are players with quality in the Portugal squad who can perfectly play," Pepe said. "As Ricardo Costa did versus the US.

"He (Bento) knows the characteristics of the opponent and will field the players who can best help the team." (Additional reporting Brian Homewood. Editing by Nigel Hunt)

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