by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar June 22nd 2014)
Cristiano Ronaldoʼs cross in the 6th minute of injury time resulted in Sylvestre Varela denying the USA a famous win that would have eliminated Portugal and left Ghana needing a favour from the Americans. The Black Stars now need Germany to beat the Americans while Portugal need Jürgen Klinsmannʼs team to beat his former charges. Meanwhile, both Klinsmann and Löw know that a draw will put both through to the last sixteen whatever Portugal or Ghana manage.
Nani put Paulo Bentoʼs team ahead after 5 minutes. Geoff Cameronʼs sliced clearance fell to the out of favour Manchester United winger, who gave Tim Howard no chance. Portugal maintained the advantage for just under an hour. Midway through the second half a corner broke to Jermaine Jones. He beat Nani and curled a fantastic goal past Portuguese goal-keeper Beto to equalise.
Seventeen minutes later US skipper Clint Dempsey put the USA ahead with less than ten minutes remaining. Substitute DeAndré Yedlin – a Seattle Sounders team-mate of Dempseyʼs – advanced on the right flank before passing to Michael Bradley. His blocked shot broke to Graham Zusi who crossed for Dempsey to put the USA ahead.
A major shock was on the cards until Varelaʼs last gasp strike kept Portugal in the World Cup, but still requiring a miracle due to their bad goal difference.
With Portugal ahead, the USA chased an equaliser. Dempsey went close in the first half, as did Bradley. Fabian Johnson hit the stanchion with Beto watching. In the second half Bradley thought that he had scored. Johnson had gone close previously. Ten minutes into the second half Johnson cut into the area and set up Bradley with an open goal. Bradley looked certain to score, but Valenciaʼs Ricardo Costa made a remarkable block to preserve Portugalʼs lead.
Despite the warnings Portugal tried to defend their lead. It backfired within ten minutes. Once they had been pegged back Portugal attacked again and the USA absorbed the pressure. With a minute of normal time remaining João Moutinho crossed for Ronaldo whose header goes wide. Ronaldo missed another header before delivering the cross that kept Portugal in with a slim chance of making the last sixteen.