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Portugal lineup will look dramatically different, but Ronaldo should start against U.S.

Jun 22, 2014, 10:11 AM EDT

With Portugal forced into four, possibly five lineup switches, will their superstar be able to make much of a difference against the USMNT?

In his press conference on Saturday, Paulo Bento referenced the four players that will be unable to start for Portugal, while hinting that a fifth may also be ruled out. Although the Portugal manager did not explicitly state that Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing, it is believed he is not the fifth, and will be starting against the U.S.

[READ MORE: KLINSMANN ON RONALDO]

What is known is this:

  • Pepe will miss out following his red card in the first match, when he headbutted Thomas Müller during the 4-0 loss to Germany
  • Forward Hugo Almeida, defender Fabio Coentrao and goalkeeper Rui Patricio are all injured and will be unable to play
  • Defender Bruno Alves missed out on Saturday’s training, and it is uncertain whether he will be available

While Bento never specifically stated that Ronaldo would start against the USMNT, he did discuss his role in the side, saying that it is not up to the forward to carry the team on his own:

We have one of the best players in the world, but there are others to support him. When I took the job I said I’d never put the responsibility for solving problems on his shoulders or those of any other player. That’s my issue. He is an important player for the team, but I don’t think he’s got any more pressure than before.

Teammate Raul Meireles also refused to confirm whether Ronaldo would be starting, instead saying, “Cristiano played the last game. He trains every day with all of us. Cristiano is fit to play, that’s all I can say.”

It looks likely Portugal’s superstar will play against the U.S. But with Bento forced into so many changes, and with Ronaldo’s nagging injury, how much of a difference will he be able to make?

  1. gregalthoff - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    I don’t think much of Portugal, and I think the US is moderately underrated. On to the knockout round.

  2. handsofsweed - Jun 22, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Unless I read it wrong, Portugal has 7 defensemen on the roster. If Alves is out, they won’t have any defensive subs available, as they will be left with only 4 men. Have fun with that in the jungle, baby.

    We have got to take advantage of this. They would have only 7 on the bench, including 2 GK’s. Five men need to be able to cover all tactical situations over any/all possible lengths of time, and only 3 can play. For example, what happens if a defender has severe cramps or something worse in the 51st min and has to come off?

    Bottom line: If Alves can’t go, Portugal is going to be in a world of physical and tactical limitations.

  3. rphillish - Jun 22, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    This game could rest more on Portugal’s mentality more than anything the US can do. If all these injuries break Portugal’s confidence then I think we can go in there and walk all over them. However, if the Portuguese players go out there feeling like their backs are against the wall and they need to win this one for their teammates, we could be in big trouble.

  4. bigdinla - Jun 22, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    Being down 3 defenders and your starting GK is huge. Trying to say it will be the difference is hard. Portugal has a lot of talented players and one of the best Midfield’s in the world. If USMNT can maintain better possession they should be able to frustrate CR7 and wear out Portuguese defense.

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