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Portugal enter must-win match vs. USMNT ravaged by injuries

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal

Photo by Ben Queenborough/


MANAUS, Brazil — Portugal is going to have to dig real deep in order to obtain the three World Cup points it sorely needs and desperately wants.

Portugal and the U.S. Men’s National Team will lock horns at Arena Amazonia on Sunday evening, but the Portuguese enter the Group G match they adamantly hope to win decimated by injuries and a suspension.

Left back Fabio Coentrao, striker Hugo Almeida and starting goalkeeper Rui Patricio will miss the rumble in the jungle with thigh problems, centerback Bruno Alves is a game-time decision with a thigh issue of his own and central defender Pepe is suspended after picking up a red card in the humiliating 4-0 loss to Germany. That is nothing to say of the left knee injury that superstar winger Cristiano Ronaldo has been allegedly ailing from but is expected to play through.

Needless to say, Portugal’s depth will be tested against a U.S. side looking to clinch an early place in the Round of 16.

“We know that there are difficulties but we can’t worry too much about the decisions on one or two players,” said Portugal head coach Paulo Bento. “That’s not the right way to go. Otherwise, we should start packing our suitcases and go home. But what we have to do is we have to continue to play thinking we’re going to win and then play against Ghana and then continue in the tournament”

Portugal is a team that likes few things more than attacking on the counter and Bento could not be blamed for taking a more defensive-minded approach given the current rash of injuries on his team. But that will not be the case on Sunday, as Bento plans on having his side attack in order to get goals and its first victory of the tournament.

“We have to get 1-0 first and then run the risk and then we will run the risk,” said Bento when asked about how he plans on making up the goal differential. “But first of all, we have to have a team that is sure of itself and will control all the situations of the game because we are up against a difficult situation.”

That approach would seem to put more of the attacking load on the shoulders of Ronaldo, who has carried the Portuguese through tough matches in the past. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner did so most recently in the second leg of a World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden by scoring four goals in a memorable performance, but Bento does not want to put any added pressure on his star player as the U.S. encounter draws near.

After all, there will be 10 other Portuguese players on the field who will need to help make a difference in order to avoid a disappointing and premature departure from Brazil.

“If we think we’re going to solve our problems only with the best player in the world, that’s a terrible mistake,” Bento said. “What brought us here was obviously the fact that we do have the best player in the world, but we have other players who support him and gave us the possibility of winning the play-offs and also in the qualifying phase.”

A draw would technically keep Portugal’s chances of advancing alive, but he does not see that as enough. He wants the three points and only three points regardless of how depleted his side is.

“We have 90 minutes to play and 90 minutes to win,” said Bento, “and that’s what we have to do.”


  1. Because of Silvestre Varela hopes are still alive for Portugal after a tight draw vs USA. Goal in extra time by Varela helped Portugal to remain in this competition. Now they have to win their last game vs Ghana with a big margin to qualify into the second round.

  2. That Argentine ref is gonna be pro USA if anything. Argentina hates Ronaldo for unseating San Messi as best player in the world.

  3. Even if Portugal is ravaged by injuries, it’s still a team made of professionals playing in top European leagues. Must not forget that.

  4. My biggest concern is not having a dominating physical presence basically anywhere on the field, besides maybe jones and johnson. This is fine for teams that know how to play the beautiful game, but we are not one of those teams. I just don’t see how we are going to create a lot of chance/score without Jozy. Makes me sad; with all these injuries Portugal has, Jozy probably would have had a field day and turned the heads of a few EPL managers. As much as I hate to say anything reminiscent of Alexi Lalas, I think our best chance is free kicks. IBTWWW

  5. Call me a cynical pessimist (is there any other kind?) but I think it’s going to be a very rough game today. Portugal is looking into the abyss. Which is why they will go for Dempsey’s nose early and try and get him off the field. Who is reffing the match? A European? Then look for calls against the US. Maybe even a red card. All that being said, I think one of the Wonder Kids will rise up today an smite the enemy hip and thigh. Aron J. knows he sucked against Ghana and I think he will ramp up his game if he’s out there. The same with Diskerud. They are used to having magic come off their cleats and will give their all. Keeping the faith we put Ronaldo and his six-pack in the dumpster for 2014.

    • It can’t be a European ref. It has to be a ref from CONMEBOL, CAF, or AFC. European refs generally get games that are between two European teams or games that are between two teams NOT from Europe. They do not get games involving 1 Euro team and 1 non-Euro team. Similarly, Mark Geiger could theoretically have called the game between Ghana and Germany, but not Mex-Brazil. I think he could theoretically ref Mex-Costa Rica but it’d be doubtful.

      • What you’re saying used to be true in prior world cups, but FIFA is fine appointing UEFA referees to matches involing one UEFA team and one NON UEFA team. It has occured in both Croatia-Cameroon and England-Uruguay.

      • Interesting. So is the only restriction now that a ref can’t call a game for his home country? (e.g. Geiger can’t ref a US game)

    • I definitely think you might be right, but the fact is that I have no idea. I feel like we have one of the most unpredictable US matches ever. Between Jozy being out, JK’s normal unpredictability, all of Portugal’s injuries and suspensions, and their predisposition for alternately looking great and awful, along with the crazy weather, I just can’t even begin to predict what might happen. I already have my stomach in knots and it’s 5 hours before game time!

  6. If you were offered a draw with Portugal right now, would you take it?–or are you confident enough in this matchup to take our chances vs Portugal straight up hoping for the win?

    • No Thanks. a draw would give us 4 points and a + 2 goal advantage on Ghana. A 1-0 loss to Germany and a 2-0 win by Ghana over Portugal and we are out. no thanks. I wish Germany had won yesterday, but it was never going to be easy.

    • Take the draw and then hope that even if we lose to Germany (a very likely result), Ghana doesn’t beat Portugal and we can go through on a better goal difference.

    • That is such a tough question. Before the Ghana match, I would have taken four points out of these first two matches and celebrated. Now I think I agree with the above guay that we need to beat Portugal here. I’m much more nervous about that prospect than most seem to be, though. Despite their injuries and suspensions, that lineup is pretty terrifying. Ronaldo and Moutinho alone are enough to give me nightmares.

      • TomG I’m with everything you said, only I’d say the sentiment you’re picking up regarding over-confidence vs Portugal is just a bit of excited optimism given the re-level setting post Ghana v Germany.

        By that I mean that every American new how tough Ghana would be, then we beat them in an ugly but effective performance and observers generally didn’t give us much credit because it wasn’t beautiful soccer. Fast forward to yesterday and an incredibly talented & organized Germany team goes in and requires a 71st minute goal by the WC all time leading scorer (ok, tied, fine) to scratch out a TIE….all of the sudden our performance last week doesn’t look so weak.

        But yes, you’re 100% right to be frightened by this Portugal team, they’re bruised but still one of the worlds absolute best teams. I want a win but a result of any kind would be a wonderful accomplishment.

        USA! USA! USA!

    • Nah, not really. Germany has a history of flat second games. Ghana were fighting for their lives.

      What’s more concerning than a Ghana who played excellently to draw Germany is a Ghana who played terribly and still dominated us for 90 minutes – even though we eked out a win.

      • you are just plain wrong. Ghana didn’t play “terribly” against us. We defended amazingly. They couldn’t break us down, save for the lone goal.

  7. Cristiano Ronaldo only has two World Cup goals against North Korea and a pk against Iran who only has one World Cup win. I have faith in fabian Johnson. I am more concerned about nani against Beasley.

      • As we’ve already established, Iran is part of the axis of evil and that world cup victory was part of their campaign of terror.

        Now that I think about it, North Korea is part of the axis as well. AND they’ve both let Ronaldo score…. its all becoming clear to me. Portugal is in league with North Korea and Iran to deny America its rightful place as a footballing world power. They’ve let Ronaldo score in order to boost his confidence for the day that he would face Americans engaged in their patriotic duties….. Iran also let Messi as well, even though everyone knew he was going to drive left, with his left foot and shoot left at the left post.

        Wheels within wheels within wheels.

  8. What the heck is Klinsmann doing by announcing to the world that we want to put “Cristiano Ronaldo in his place”??

    • P.S. I think Dempsey should do that thing where he scores in the first 30 seconds again. That worked really well against Ghana, they never saw it coming.


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