Durable Americans can hold Portugal if they tame Ronaldo.
Jurgen Klinsmann has instilled a little bit of German grit in the USA team. They are a side that is used to winning and that showed in their opening Group G game against Ghana when they came back to grab a late winner after being pegged back inside the final 10 minutes.
But Klinsmann has selection problems against Portugal with Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore stretchered off in the first half in Natal with a hamstring injury. Another hamstring victim, Matt Gesler, may also have played his last game in the competition while top scorer Clint Dempsey ended the game bloodied.
But the Americans do have three points on the board and are clearly well organised. Their problems may start if they have to chase a game, however, and Portugal surely can’t play as badly as they did against the Germans again.
That said, Klinsmann’s opposite number Paul Bento will also have to make changes to his starting line-up. As well as the suspended Pepe, a replacement will have to be found for injured Real Madrid full-back Fabio Coentrao. Veteran centre-forward Hugo Almeida is also a major doubt and goalkeeper Rui Patricio will have to undertake a late fitness test.
It’s almost always unfair to use the term ‘one-man team’ but Portugal’s entire game plan is centred around Cristiano Ronaldo and the opposition know that if they can contain the Real Madrid winger, there’s a good chance of a positive result.
Expect the USA defence to double up on the opposition’s main man, who may still not be fully match-fit, in the knowledge that a draw would probably be enough to reach the last 16 for the second time in succession.
With a scratch side, a very pedestrian midfield and little firepower to support Ronaldo, it’s going to be tough for Portugal who have to win. It is 14/5 that this game ends all-square. The USA/Draw on the HT/FT is 13/1.
The match kicks off at 11pm UK time on Sunday June 22nd at the Arena Amazonia, Manaus.