Can the U.S. carry its momentum forward?
After defeating Ghana 2-1 in a thrilling match, the Americans now face the talented Cristiano Ronaldo and a reeling Portugal team coming off a 4-0 loss to Germany.
When and Where to Watch
The two countries face off Sunday, June 22, 6:00 pm (ET), live on ESPN. The game is being played in Arena Amazônia in Manaus, Amazonas. After a huge victory for the U.S. against Ghana, restaurants and bars all across the United States will be packed for the team’s penultimate match of the group stage. Show up early because it might be too crowded to get a seat at your town’s more popular spots.
Why You Should Watch
A win would bring our point total to 6, almost assuredly securing a trip to the knockout round for the United States. At the same time, Portugal is desperate after losing by a large margin to Germany. The Portuguese must be thinking they need to win the next two games to advance, considering it would be hard for them to move on based on goal differential at this point. Therefore, both squads will be playing their hearts out on the world’s biggest stage. Portugal’s last game featured a number of hard fouls and even a headbutt, so for fans of the UFC and Boxing, this game might just be physical enough to keep you entertained. We’ve got two teams fighting for second place in the “Group of Death” after both had unexpected outcomes in their opening matches. What’s not to like?
You saw the exciting style of play that the American team offered against Ghana and these 90 minutes should be no less exhilarating. Though Jozy Altidore will not be available to contribute, our substitutes have proven that they can perform at a world-class level. By the way, Cristiano Ronaldo, who made little to no impact against Germany, is still one of the best players in the world. Seeing a player with his qualifications take the field is enough reason to tune-in. If the USA plays well here and Germany defeats Ghana, USA v. Germany will probably be no more than a glorified scrimmage, as the two teams will be happy to accept a draw and advance without wasting their precious energy and showing future opponents their tactical strategies. This could be the last competitive game that Group G presents, make sure you don’t miss it.
Who to Watch for the United States
Clint Dempsey. Clint Dempsey. Did I mention Clint Dempsey? He scored in the opening seconds of last game and will be on a mission to repeat that miracle again. However, his talent is no real surprise for anyone at this point. This means that the Portugal defense will likely be keying in on Dempsey, possibly opening up holes for some other American players. With Jozy Altidore out of the game and potentially the entire tournament, other strikers must step up and be the difference in this game.
Michael Bradley was a rare non-factor against Ghana. I wouldn’t count on that to happen again. Though Portugal is better than Ghana on paper, it’s extremely difficult for any defense to contain every offensive-minded player on the American team. In order to do so, the Portuguese must dominate possession and remain on the attack for the entire game. Just like the way USA v. Ghana played out, I’d expect Portugal to hold the ball for the majority of the match. This should open up the quick counterattack for the USA, with the star midfielder as the catalyst. Keep your eyes on Michael Bradley because odds are with him to rebound in a big way against Portugal.
Last week, I predicted a 2-1 victory over Ghana, with Clint Dempsey and Aron Jóhannsson scoring the lone goals. Because of Jozy Altidore’s presence against Ghana, Jóhannsson didn’t bear much of the load on Monday. With Altidore sidelined, Jóhannsson must step up. If Aron plays well in his matchup, the United States should have a slight advantage. You’ll want to watch the Alabama-born Icelandic-American to see if he is up to the task of filling Altidore’s role over the course of the tournament.
Why the U.S. Will Walk Away Victorious
The 4 goals that Germany scored on Portugal are a bit misleading. Don’t expect the U.S. to have that much offensive success, unless the injuries and red cards start flooding in. The Portuguese were playing with 10 men for much of the match. Add to that the fact that the Germans are one of the best all-around teams in the tournament and you have yourselves a blowout. This game will be much closer considering the Portuguese know that a loss basically eliminates them from further contention. Expect Head Coach Paulo Bento to have his team composed and ready to take on the USMNT. Having said that, I expect a tense, closely contested match with minimal risks taken and few goals scored.
Around 85% of teams who win their first match of the World Cup move past the group stage. Still not feeling confident in the U.S. chances of advancement after defeating Ghana? Well, now we face a shorthanded Portugal team who is missing a number of important contributors. Portugal’s best defender, Pepe, will not be seeing any action after earning a red card for his antics against Germany. Portugal will also be without Fábio Coentrão and Hugo Almeida. It seems as though the U.S. will be doing all it can to stymie Cristiano Ronaldo. If the Americans limit Ronaldo as effectively as the Germans did, another win could be in store.
No goals are scored in a stressful first half of play. Michael Bradley puts one in the net in the 63rd minute on a furious counterattack. The Americans walk away with 3 hard-earned points, giving the Portuguese their second goose egg of the World Cup. USA 1, Portugal 0.