This Group G encounter stole the headlines and the previews. It was do or die for a lacklustre Portugal who were battered 4-0 by Germany and if they didn’t get the required points, they would be out of the World Cup, and prematurely too. USA on the other hand, were brimming with confidence after their 2-1 victory over Ghana. A win would guarantee them qualification into the round of 16, and the democrats of USA were looking for a win. Jurgen Klinsmann fielded a strong side with names like Dempsey, Howard, Jermaine Jones all starting. For Paulo Bento, it was slightly different as Pepe was unavailable to suspension while keeper Rui Patricio, left back Fabio Coentrao and striker Hugo Almeida were ruled out through injury. Beto, Riccardo Costa, Andre Almeida and Helder Postiga came in for the injured quart.
Portugal had a dream start as in under 5 minutes, Manchester United F.C. (Yay) winger Nani scored putting Portugal in the lead. A harmless cross which should have been a routine clearance for Geoff Cameron led to a horrible mistake from the defender, who scuffed his clearance straight into the feet of a grateful Nani who slotted home comfortably from 5 yards out. He became the 4th Manchester United player to score at the Brazil World Cup Finals. But Portugal could not push on, as they were wasteful in possession and seemed to have no urgency as if a one goal lead was enough. They lost Helder Postiga through injury, another blow for Paulo Bento. Cristiano Ronaldo certainly had his showboating boots on, with some dazzling runs and tricks to leave the entire stadium astounded, but to no avail, as Portugal could not score another goal. USA started playing better, and had a few chances, only for Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones to be denied by Beto and a compact Portuguese defence. Nani did have a few chances, but his shots were saved by Howard, and his one shot hit the post and Howard showed super reflexes to deny Eder on the rebound. USA dominated and seemed more threatening on the attack and USA’s physical game by crowding players out and fouling them before they can start an attack, especially Ronaldo was working perfectly. At halftime it was the 2004 Euro Runners-Up in the lead, albeit by the narrowest of margins. Andre Almeida came off injured at halftime and William Carvalho replaced him.
The second half started with USA looking the better side and they got their rewards just after the hour mark. Jermaine Jones who had earlier tweeted his pleasure about playing “against the best player CR7”, scored a beautiful goal, from just outside the box. Beto watched unmoved and expressed his anger at the defence for not closing down the player fast enough. USA controlled the game, and looked destined to make it two, as Ronaldo and Co. were absolutely out of it. 9 minutes from time, Clint Dempsey had the stomach to find the back of the net after Zusi picked up a loose ball and fed it to the captain who broke a million Portuguese hearts. But the game was not over yet, not if Cristiano Ronaldo was still on the pitch. He did have a disappointing game, not because he played bad, but because he could not do it all alone. Deep into stoppage time, the most capped World Cup player for Portugal, delivered a breathtaking cross from the right flank and Silvestre Varela, a late substitute, headed the ball in to put Portugal level. Agony for Jurgen Klinsmann and some solace for Paulo Bento as that was the last meaningful touch of the ball, in this encounter.
USA are now level with Germany on points and Portugal bottom of the group. Portugal have to beat Ghana emphatically, if they even have a chance of qualifying, and for that they will need Ronaldo to fire and his teammates to help him out. USA have lots to be proud off, and they were really unlucky not taking all 3 points. They are close but yet so far. This group is set for a super finish and we cannot wait to see what lies ahead. We both want Ronaldo to go through, but we would be extremely pleased if USA or Ghana made it through. This world cup is unlike any other and it set to get even more interesting.
FIFA Man Of The Match – Tim Howard
The Everton goalie had a super game. He was decisive in front of goal and very composed while collecting aerial balls. Organized his defence really well and without his heroics, Nani would have had a hat-trick. Superb display by the keeper, a deserving MOTM
Our Man Of The Match – Jermaine Jones
Scored the first of the two US goals. It was a wonderful strike into the corner after a failed clearance from Nani. Had a good game overall, was always lively and ready to give it his all. His impact on the game was evident, running riot in midfield and all of it put together, he was the best player.
Our Flop Of The Match– Bruno Alves
Got himself into trouble with sloppy passing at the back. His old legs appeared to catch up to him, as he was bailed out by Costa on more than a few occasions.