Jun 22, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT
With so much on the line for the United States in each game, they look to stun the “Group of Death” and earn knockout-stage security against Portugal.
Cristiano Ronaldo hopes to have other ideas.
The Portuguese, ranked #4 in the world, fell 4-0 to the Germans in their opening match, and are on the brink of elimination with a loss.
On the flip side, the United States would become the first Group G team to earn a place in the knockout round if they could earn a win against a country they’ve had surprising results over in the past.
Jozy Altidore is out injured for the US, and Clint Dempsey is the man to take his place in the attack. For Portugal, Pepe is suspended after his late straight-red against Germany, and Fabio Coentrao is also out for the entire tournament with an injury.
United States – Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey.
Portugal – Beto; Bruno Alves, Pereira, A.Almeida, Costa; Veloso, Meireles, Mourinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga.
1. How healthy is Cristiano Ronaldo?
This is a massive unknown. Ronaldo looked less than 100% against Germany, and was ineffective as a result. With more ice packs on his knee throughout training this past week, many speculate he may still not be fully fit. Nonetheless, he is playing.
“There’s a lot of admiration for him and for the players who play at big clubs and in the Champions League,” said Jurgen Klinsmann. “But this is the moment to prove yourself, to step up, play those guys and put them in place. We want to put Cristiano in place. We want to make it our game, we are ready for that, we have been preparing for that a long time. We are not worried about any players, we respect them of course, as we always do, but we are ready.”
2. How will the US attack look without Jozy Altidore?
Jurgen Klinsmann has decided to put Clint Dempsey as the lone striker, leaving Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski to ponder things on the bench. It’s a bold move from the manager, as Dempsey’s creative ability often relies on freedom in the attacking midfield, but with no other true scoring threats he will have to stick to the head of the attack. Will that backfire? Or will it give solidity to the formation?
Expectation: Umm…….nobody actually knows, to be honest. The Portuguese are favored by reputation alone, but having been demolished by a quality German side, it’s hard to actually tell what they can bring to the table on a consistent basis. Much of it also rides on how fit Ronaldo is, which is a complete unknown.
One blogger’s prediction: This is one of the hardest matches to call so far in this World Cup, and with that, I will leave you with a 2-1 Portugal victory, solely on the premise that I really don’t want to be responsible for a jinx of the United States squad. Enjoy the match! It’s one of the most important in recent US soccer memory.
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