It wasn’t do-or-die, but it was as close to that as you could get for the United States. In a match that, if won, would see the United States progress to the knockout stage with one match to play still (against Germany), the Stars and Stripes put on one of the most memorable performances in the history of the sport for their country – and then Portugal broke the hearts of millions at the death.
It was almost karma, really. So outplayed against Ghana but still managing to beat the African side, the twist of fate would turn on the very same team it aided less than a week ago. Ghana lived vicariously through Portugal tonight, who’s result against the United States leaves the group wide open.
Cristiano Ronaldo, struggling fitness issues that are known to the world, did not play well yet again, but he came up huge for his nation when it mattered most. His cross to Varela in the 95th minute was as delicious of a ball that you could ever see in football. In an instant, the US went from pure elation to a moment of utter shock and disappointment. They now must play Germany in their third and final match and hope that they can at least get a draw if they want to see themselves into the knockout stage, and with Germany not officially qualified for the next round yet like so many hoped, it will be no easy task.
United States: Tim Howard; DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson; Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman; Michael Bradley; Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey, Alejandro Bedoya
Portugal: Beto; Andre Almeida, Ricardo Costa, Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira; Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho; Cristiano Ronaldo, Helder Postiga, Nani
Portugal had the United States back against it from the word go, which usually brings out the best in the States, but this time Portugal took the lead. Nani did so well to finish inside the first five minutes after the ball fell kindly to him in the box from less than 12 yards away after a shanked clearance by Geoff Cameron, leaving Tim Howard no chance.
The United States would settle and respond well, but in the first 25minutes could not find that optimal goal scoring chance they craved to get themselves back into it. Clint Dempsey would find himself with pace in the box after being laid off by Graham Zusi and he did well to create a chance but his effort on goal, destined for the far corner, was well blocked by Ricardo Costa.
Portugal would nearly make it 2-0 when Nani’s effort from distance crashed off the post and fell right to Eder, who’s chipped but tame effort was tipped over the bar by a sprawling Howard. Despite the better play by the United States in the half, they were still living dangerously.
Portugal would make an intriguing change at halftime, bringing the highly rated younger William Carvalho on for Helder Postiga, giving the Portuguese more solidarity not only in midfield, but on the defensive side of the ball and in their defensive third of the pitch.
The United States nearly drew level when Fabian Johnson was released down the right into space by Graham Zusi – his cross found Bradley free and clear from less than 12 yards out but his effort was cleared off the line by Ricardo Costa. It was a move that was executed brilliantly by the States, who were looking to exploit Veloso’s awkward deployment at left-back.
The United States would draw level in the 63rd minute when Jermaine Jones found the back of the net from over 28-yards out with a blistering curling effort after Portugal failed to properly clear the corner that came before – it was a leveler that was more than rightly deserved for the States.
The United States would capitalize from the left flank as so many had begin to point out, when Jones, fantastic on the night, put DeAdre Yedlin through on the left who played a low cross centrally that deflected to Bradley – his effort was then deflected to Zusi who crossed for Dempsey who chested in from less than 5 yards out. 2-1 to the States in a match that they had the better of Portugal throughout.
Portugal would not be denied a result on the night however
, when in the last 30 seconds of stoppage time Ronaldo was put into space on the right – he whipped in a delicious ball that found the head of Varela who headed home with conviction past a rooted Howard to draw Portugal level, keeping their slim hopes alive this summer. It was not the wanted or deserved result for the United States who put in a fantastic performance, but such is the World Cup and such is the quality of Ronaldo that they were made to pay at the death.
Man of the Match
Jermaine Jones – he has been absolutely immense for the United States in midfield this tournament, despite so many crying out for him to be dropped from the team before Klinsmann named the 23-man squad. He was brilliant against Ghana and even more so tonight against Portugal, completely bossing the midfield with a superb box-to-box effort all night long and he capped his performance off with a fantastic long ranged goal as well.
Player ratings for United States
Howard (7.0) – He played quite well as always, and neither of the goals were his fault. Still one of the top keepers in the tournament.
Beasley (6.0) – Could have done a better job in bigger spurts when his flank was under threat. Certain times he was brilliant, and certain times he was awful.
Besler (6.5) – Defended well but switched off quite a few times that gave Portugal plenty of scoring chances, no bigger than the two they converted.
Cameron (6.5) – Completely his fault for Portugal’s opener, but he rebounded well overall. Still was not near at his best mentally however.
Johnson (7.0) – He has become one of the best players for the national team and it showed here again today. Ironic about the hate he received pre-tournament about being half German.
Jones (8.0) – Another one of “Klinsmann’s Krauts”, he’s been far and away their best player in Brazil. Tonight he was brilliant yet again, and capped it off with a brilliant goal.
Beckerman (7.5) – Has been sensational in the middle along side Jones, allowing him to rampage forward more often while Beckerman plays the holding role quite well.
Bradley (5.5) – Should have had a goal, but apart from that, yet again, he was sub-par at best. He really needs to improve this tournament for sure.
Zusi (7.0) – Worked his socks off, was fantastic both off and on the ball and bagged himself an assist – cannot ask much more from him in that regard.
Dempsey (7.0) – Was removed before the match ended, but still did well as usual. Captain Clint got himself a goal and was, as usual, a real headache in the final third.
Bedoya (6.0) – He was decent, but nothing more than average honestly. Much more was expected from him, but his selection is not under threat…for now.
Yedlin (7.0) – Came on late and was brilliant – his pace and direct style of play lead to the second goal for the United States – he may see more time in Brazil now.
Wondolowski (5.0) – Nothing much can be said here about him other than that he did nothing.
Gonzalez (5.0) – Came on and did nothing much at all, solidifying why Besler and Cameron are the preferred center-back pairing.
Player ratings for Portugal
Beto (6.5) – He did fairly well and looked a better than Rui Patricio, but still not anything completely convincing.
Almeida (5.5) – Not nearly as good as Fabio Coentrao at the position, and his flank was exposed as such all night long by the United States
Costa (7.0) – A much more improved performance from him this time around compared to when he came on during the Germany match.
Alves (6.0) – Was decent. He marked well and was solid in the air, but his lack of pace will always come back to haunt him.
Pereira (6.0) – He was decent but did not stand out. Was exposed for his lack of positioning quite a few times as well.
Meireles (6.0) – Average at best yet again for Portugal, highlighting their weakness in midfield and their real lack of options.
Veloso (4.5) – He did not have the best time in midfield, and then was utterly woeful when pressed into service at left-back.
Moutinho (6.5) – He was decent, but not nearly as influential as he is capable of being – he needs to step up against Ghana in their final match.
Ronaldo (6.0) – Despite his fantastic assist, he was poor again. His fitness is obviously not 100%, but that doesn’t take away from being poor – he could always not play.
Postiga (5.0) – Taken off before 15minutes through injury and did nothing during his time on the pitch. Not his fault, but his rating reflects his lack of contribution.
Nani (7.0) – Took his goal very, very well and was quite lively throughout. Still lacks a bit of incisiveness, but he was good on the day.
Carvalho (7.0) – He really showed why he should be selected from the off for Portugal. He stabilized a leaky midfield incredibly well and was very calm in his decision making and distribution.
Varela (7.0) – Showed why he should be starting either out wide or at striker – he was a massive upgrade once coming in and his pace, directness and finishing ability came to the fore for the late equalizer.