World Cup 2014 – Group G – Match Report: USA 2 – Portugal 2

23 Jun

tumblr_n77dybyQPf1tvk8meo1_500Just a complete mill of emotions on this one. After the result of Germany v Ghana, the USA had an excellent chance to be the first team in Group G to move to the next round. But Portugal were more than up for a fight at Arena Amazonia in Manaus.

With the results of the first two Group G matches, I’m not sure anyone still looked at USA as an underdog. Portugal had been outplayed by Germany in their first match and looked slightly weary and discombobulated. But USA were still riding a high. They hadn’t really outplayed Ghana, but they’d shown exceptional resilience. This was bound to be a fun match to watch, if not absolutely and utterly tiring for all of the fans.

USA: Jones (64’), Dempsey (81’)

Portugal: Nani (5’), Varela (90’+)

Lineups

USA: Tim Howard; Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley; Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi; Clint Dempsey.

Portugal: Beto; Andre Almeida, Ricardo Costa, Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira; Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo; Helder Postiga.

Before the match kicked off, Samsung’s marketing department made possibly the greatest gaffe to yet come out of this World Cup with a tweet that read “Good luck to Landon Donovan & USA team” and the following photo:
BqvNCA9IcAE0N25USA made only one change from the side that had faced Ghana, with Zusi finding his way into the starting 11 to (not really) replace injured Jozi Altidore. Portugal had not walked away from the match against Germany unscathed. They had to make four changes from their previous starting 11. Beto replaced injured goalkeeper Rui Patricio, Andre Almeida and Ricardo Costa replaced Fabio Coentrao (injured) and Pepe (serving his ban for a red card), and Helder Postiga replaced injured Hugo Almeida.

Tim Howard and Cristiano Ronaldo were reunited from their Manchester United days.

Right at the start the USA pushed forward hoping for another early goal. But the attack fizzled and Cristiano Ronaldo took off down the wing. He looked like a man unaffected by injury.

The USA’s early goal hopes were destroyed in the 5th minute. A ball crossed into the box was mishandled by Geoff Cameron (who had been the 3rd highest rated player in the tournament until that mistake) and fell right into Nani’s lap. And, like he does from time to time, Nani put it decisively into the back of the net.


USA were rattled and a corner kick two minutes later saw them scrambling. Fortunately for them (and my breaking heart), Portugal couldn’t put the finishing touches on it. After a few hairy minutes the US finally calmed down and began to find their rhythm again.

A good chance came at 13’ when Fabian Johnson was brought down by Bruno Alves just outside the box. Clint Dempsey put some worry into Beto, but in the end it sailed just over the crossbar.

In the 15th minute, Portugal’s injury woes got worse when Helder Postiga, who had replaced injured Hugo Almeida, went down injured and was replaced by Eder. I can’t imagine what was going through Paolo Bento’s head as he had to reach to his bench early yet again.

With Clint Dempsey up front by himself, he had a lot of work to do. It was frustrating as his shots were either saved by a very good Beto, or sailing too high over. The frustration was there for Portugal too. A few good runs by His Orange-ness fizzled when they reached Eder in the middle.

But right at the end Portugal looked to punish USA’s mistakes. Tim Howard made the save of the match just before the half. The US had been saved brilliantly by Nani’s shot coming off the post. Tim Howard made a scrambling save on Eder’s follow up to deny Portugal a 2-0 lead at the end of the first half.

Really though… Perhaps save of the tournament so far? Definitely giving Ochoa a run for his money.

Second Half:

The half started a little shaky for USA again. Portugal replaced Almeida (of the Andre variety) with Willian. It wasn’t long before Cameron made another mistake in the box but Eder’s shot was off. Then Bradley had a brilliant opportunity to equalize but his shot was cleared brilliantly by Ricardo Costa (kind of loved this kid. Need to watch him more).

Cristiano looked to be slowing down, like his knee was beginning to bother him. The link up play for Portugal was starting to fall apart and Cristiano looked slow (for him). Counter attacks for both teams were looking good, however.

In the 64th minute, a corner for the United States was only cleared half-heartedly by Portugal and Jermaine Jones picked it up. With a touch inside, he fired a shot that dipped beautifully into the far bottom corner. It was a world class goal that shocked even me as a USA fan. It was the kind of goal that we normally associate with players from Spain, Brazil, Germany, and Portugal (Psst… It was better than Messi’s goal against BIH).


Portugal responded well, and it began to get a little nervy for the USA. Attack after attack fizzled in the end, but there was a sense of determination from Portugal. They would not simply let the US take charge.

Portugal used their final sub to bring on Varela for my second favorite hipster, Raul Meireles (my first favorite is and always will be El Pirata). And USA brought DeAndre Yedlin on for Alejandro Bedoya.

Jermaine Jones received the first yellow card of the match when he brought Joao Moutinho down. I’ve read it was a harsh booking, but to be honest I thought a booking was coming for Jones. He’s physical and had been lucky so far in the match.

With the USA on the back foot, Matt Besler was again down with an injury. I begged Jurgen to take him off. Well, I begged on Twitter. I was concerned both with the invitation of further injury and with the defensive integrity of the US if he was left on. Jurgen obviously doesn’t care about my opinion and Besler was just waving off the sub like “Nah, I got this.” Not that I can’t relate. Watishista Mandi can attest to the 24 hours it took me to go to the hospital after breaking my wrist in a soccer game.

80 minutes into the match and almost everyone had written the USA off. Portugal looked stronger in attack, and when the USA did break it was Dempsey virtually alone. But Yedlin’s speed lead to a break for the USA. It was great link up play between Yedlin, Bradley, and Zusi before Zusi’s cross found a hip-thrusting Clint Dempsey.

All the USA had to do was hold on for 10 minutes (because who remembers added time until it happens?). Play remained end to end, but neither team could finish. At 84’ Ronaldo took an uncharacteristic short free kick. Portugal still were applying pressure to USA, whose defense was beginning to look too sloppy.

In the 87th minute it seemed Portugal’s frustration was getting the better of them. A ball played into the middle resulted in Ronaldo and Eder getting in each other’s way. Clint Dempsey was replaced by Chris Wondolowski (the guy that “stole” Landon Donovan’s spot).

Originally, the ref had called for 4 minutes of added time. But the slow substitution saw the 4th official change the board to 5 added minutes. I’m not sure what the ruling is on this, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen this happen.

The Manchester United fan in me used to love calling it Fergie time. The Real Madrid fan in me loves added time when it means that Sergio Ramos gives us a beautiful push for La Decima. The USA fan in me now rues added time.

That one extra minute afforded by the ref meant that Cristiano Ronaldo could play in an absolutely beautiful cross right to the head of substitute Varela. There was nothing Tim Howard could do. The defense had failed him, specifically Geoff Cameron unfortunately. Matt Besler also isn’t without fault. Miscommunication between USA’s defenders and the hopes of qualifying early for the Round of 16 were over.

Heartbreak for USA fans after getting their hopes up.

My Notes:

A largely neutralized Ronaldo showed exactly why he’s so dangerous. His detractors will point out that he hasn’t yet scored in the World Cup. But he plays a large part in the build up to the goals that Portugal does score. And the precision of his cross for Varela was exactly why we love him so much as Real Madrid fans.

Does anyone else think Ricardo Costa is fabulous? He probably should have been in the starting 11 against Germany as well. What a stellar defender! Yet another defender that has me wanting to steal him for Real Madrid. Granted this is based on one match so far…

Michael Bradley. SMH. I’m not really sure who this bald guy on the pitch has been, but it’s not Michael Bradley. He’s been just plain bad. I don’t want to jump the gun and call for his complete exile from the starting 11, but Klinnsman needs to figure something out. The play can’t continue to go through the USA’s version of Xavi if he’s not showing up. If he’s playing poorly, a sub needs to be allotted for him. Klinnsman isn’t known for his inability to make hard choices like that.

 

– mygypsyspirit

5 Responses to “World Cup 2014 – Group G – Match Report: USA 2 – Portugal 2”

  1. Laura Witrak June 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    I KNEW THEY ADDED ANOTHER MINUTE!!! I was talking to my 3 yr old for a couple seconds and then turned back to see 5 minutes. Total confusion. Part of me (the cynical side I hide 99% of the time) thought it was a conspiracy to help Portugal score another goal but of course I wouldn’t have thought that if they hadn’t scored, right?? Whatever. It was weird but it was a thrilling roller coaster of a game.

  2. Katie Ann June 23, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    WHAT. A. GAME. I’m still reeling from it!

  3. mygypsyspirit June 23, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    I was glad to see Spain go out on a win. A bit tough to see David Villa in tears.

    • mygypsyspirit June 24, 2014 at 2:02 am #

      I’m really not sure how this comment ended up on this post instead of the Spain post. That’s really frigging weird…

  4. Natalie June 24, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    Great game, so many thrills

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