The USA takes on Portugal today in what will be a defining match for Group G, which some have labeled the “Group of Death.” As we discussed before, USA has many things going in their favor already, including key injuries on Portugal’s side.
Cristiano Ronaldo happens to be one of these injuries, although he’s still playing today. The Real Madrid striker suffers from a patellar tendon knee injury, which hasn’t kept him off the pitch. However, the lingering knee issue does prevent him from being 100% and one wrong step could put him out for the 2014 World Cup.
Of course, the Americans are preparing as if they’re facing the world’s best player when he’s in perfect health. And this is definitely a good idea when you consider what Ronaldo can do to opponents in short order.
Previous Ronaldo Heroics
After losing their first match against Germany 1-0 and beating Denmark 3-2 in Euro 2012 group play, Portugal needed a win against the Netherlands to advance. Things looked bleak, though, as the Dutch went up by a score of 1-0 early on. But then Ronaldo stormed back and scored two goals to propel his side to a win and a spot in the quarterfinals.
Then there was the match that actually put Portugal in the 2014 World Cup, a playoff game against Sweden. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had scored a goal to put the Swedes within one more strike of moving to the Cup. However, Ronaldo went on to score two more goals to give himself a hat trick and guarantee the Portuguese a spot in the world’s biggest soccer tournament.
What to expect against USA
The Americans know better than to expect a ginger Ronaldo playing at half-speed to protect his knee and future. His teammates don’t expect this either, especially Raul Meireles, who strongly believes that Ronaldo will show up in the sweltering heat of Manaus today.
“We know Cristiano, we don’t expect anything else,” Meireles said of his superstar teammate’s tireless effort. “Cristiano is the best player in the world and he is always competing to be the best player. This group has gone through difficult times before and I hope this will be another occasion when we will be successful.”
Meireles’ words hint at the two comebacks that Ronaldo provided against Sweden and the Netherlands. But then again, they were dominated 4-0 by Germany in their opening round, with “CR7” being completely stopped. That said, the urgency is definitely there, but Portugal is up against a lot of giants right now.
They are sitting at minus 4 on the goal differential, have zero points, and rank last in Group G behind Germany (4 pts), USA (3 pts) and Ghana (3 pts). Besides Ronaldo’s knee injury, Portugal will be without at least four starters against the US in central defender Pepe (red card), leftback Fabio Coentrao, striker Hugo Almeida and goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Centerback Bruno Alves could also possibly miss the match since he has a serious thigh injury. Meanwhile, USA is only missing striker Jozy Altidore while Clint Dempsey will play with a broken nose.
Win or Go Home
Despite all of their injury problems, Portugal head coach Paulo Bento will be expecting the best out of his team. In fact, he has to or else they’re going home. “This is the scenario we have ahead of us,” said Bento. “If we draw, we practically pack our suitcase. It is not a scenario we are unaware of. It is not a situation we are unused to.”
Is this going to be another one of those against-the-wall situations where Ronaldo provides heroics? Or will this be one time too many for a team that’s survived plenty of close brushes in the past? We’ll see when the USA vs Portugal match takes place at 6:00 ET today (June 22nd). If you’d like to do some last-minute 2014 World Cup betting before the game, check out the lines at GTBets.eu. We not only have lines on all of today’s matches, but also World Cup live wagering opportunities too.