USA 2, Portugal 2: Shocking finish denies United States easy trip to next round

June 22, 8:53 PM

All four teams in Group G are still alive, after a thrilling goal in stoppage time gave Portugal a 2-2 tie with the United States.

It wasn’t the most technical of matches, but it was certainly entertaining. The U.S. overcame an early deficit to take the lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the match. As everyone prepared to welcome another side through to the next round, the Portuguese — content to sit back for much of the match — refused to lay down.

Cristiano Ronaldo sent in an incredible cross in the dying seconds to Silvestre Varela on the far post. He headed it past a stunned Tim Howard for the incredible equalizer, keeping Portugal’s 2014 World Cup chances alive.

The Goals

GOAL! Nani (POR), 5 min. A horrible clearance from Geoff Cameron lands right at the feet of Nani five yards from goal. He places it past a diving Tim Howard easily.

GOAL! Jermaine Jones (USA), 64 min. With the U.S. bombarding Portugal with their attack, the Americans finally break through off a corner kick. A ball in the box isn’t cleared. It falls to Jones just outside. He steps around Nani, and fires it past a statuesque Beto.

GOAL! Clint Dempsey (USA), 81 min. The ball rattles around the box until it finds Graham Zusi on the left side. He lifts it over to Dempsey, unmarked right in front of net, who is only onside because Bruno Alves was slow to get up after the scramble in front. Dempsey pushes it in the net with his midsection and the stadium explodes.

GOAL! Silvestre Varela (POR), 90 (+4) min. Cristiano Ronaldo! Cristiano Ronaldo! Cristiano Ronaldo! Ronaldo sends in a perfect ball from way outside the area that appears magnetized to Varela’s head. He easily pops it in.

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Man of the Match - Ronaldo’s Cross

I know Ronaldo’s cross into Varela at the death isn’t really a man. But if any play of this World Cup deserves personification, it was that one. Stunning. Perfect. And most importantly for Portugal, timely.

The Controversy

There wasn’t supposed to be an official cooling break during Sunday’s match, but Argentine referee Nestor Pitana allowed both sides to refresh themselves during a break in play during the first half in Manaus — where game time temperatures were close to 30 degrees Celsius.

A comprehensive list of all the harm this decision wreaked:

How did Portugal and the United States try to win?

After a very lucky early goal, Portugal sat back and defended multiple U.S. attacks, hoping to catch them on a counter. Nani, the goalscorer, looked better in his misses after the opener than the one he put away. The attention that U.S. defenders spent on Ronaldo afforded Nani a lot of space on the right side.

Meanwhile, the U.S. attack ran mainly down the right side through fullback Fabian Johnson. Jurgen Klinsmann didn’t use a symmetrical formation on Sunday night, deciding to push the midfield to the left side. This freed up a lot of space for Johnson, who ran his legs off throughout the match.

Johnson’s ability to move up the pitch drew Miguel Veloso over to help out Andre Almedia in the first half, freeing up space for Michael Bradley to pop off constant balls through the air that would land at the feet of Dempsey who didn’t have the strongest match despite his heroic go-ahead goal in the 81st minute.

The Takeaway

The United States will now play Germany, needing only a draw to advance to the knockout stage, but anything other than a draw in the Portugal vs. Ghana match means they can’t lose.

For Portugal, they need to beat Ghana, and hope that either Germany or the United States win their final match of the Group Stage by a good margin. If the Americans draw the Germans, those two go through, and Portugal is left on the outside looking in.

No comment:

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The 1,000 Words

Stray Thoughts

Kyle Beckerman threw an incredibly dirty and incredibly risky elbow on Raul Meireles after he brought him down with a challenge. If an official had seen it, he would’ve received a deserved red card.

A lot of sloppy passing and sloppy clearances from the U.S., but Bradley played a fantastic looping ball behind the Portuguese defense to Dempsey, who earned the U.S. their first corner.

By the 35th minute, the United States had equalled their total shots from the match against Ghana. There are obviously different game conditions affecting that, but the U.S. were owning the run of play after allowing the goal.

Left back Andre Almedia was subbed off at the half. He looked all out of sorts guarding the frequently attacking Fabian Johnson. He was replaced by Willian, who moved into the midfield, and Miguel Veloso was put in the left fullback role. Putting a non-defender in an unfamiliar role is a strange move considering how good Johnson was in the first half.

Johnson had a wonderful run in the 55th minute, drew out the Portuguese ‘keeper then set up Bradley with an open net except for Ricardo Costa’s diving effort to stop the shot. Amazing play in defense.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a dancer.

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY