If you thought the first match of the World Cup brought soccer fever to the United States, just wait until the second match is over against Portugal.
At the end of this Group G battle, the USMNT has a great chance to reach the knockout round for the second World Cup in a row. This may be easier said than done, given the fact the U.S. team has some injuries it must contend with in Sunday’s group stage game. Luckily for the U.S., Portugal has issues of its own.
In an unpredictable World Cup, Group G has been the rule rather than the exception. After the U.S. team downed Ghana 2-1 on a dramatic last-minute goal, sending soccer fans across the country into sheer pandemonium, the Ghana team rallied Saturday for a 2-2 tie against Germany. This set the stage for Sunday’s showdown, which doesn’t quite have winner-take-all implications, but it does have a lot of weight for the Americans.
Clint Dempsey suffered a broken nose against Ghana, but will play in this match. The same can’t be said for Jozy Altidore, whose hamstring injury will keep him sidelined.
Portugal has injury concerns of its own. The team wants to tamp down speculation Cristiano Ronaldo is not 100 percent due to knee issues, but the truth is we won’t know just which Ronaldo will show up. If he has trouble hobbling around the field, Portugal is in serious trouble. If Ronaldo comes out looking like one of the best soccer players on the European continent, the U.S. team could be the ones saying “uh, oh.”
Portugal lost 4-0 to Germany in the team’s first game last week, so the offense came out flat, as did the defense. That has to be trouble for coach Paulo Bento, who will not have three players at his disposal in this game. Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida are out with injuries, and Pepe drew a red card against Germany.
Prediction: United States 2, Portugal 0
The United States has had a history of not running up goals in this World Cup, nor in any of the qualifying games before it. Portugal will likely be hamstrung by injuries, red cards and all-around ineffective play. This will leave the Americans with a clear path to the knockout round and a match against Germany that will decide positioning in the Round of 16.