On June 22nd, the United States and Portugal will travel to the Arena Amazônia to face each other in a huge game in group G. The United States started their World Cup as well as they could have hoped to. The US grabbed a dramatic 2-1 win over Ghana with an 86th minute winner from John Brooks. The Ghana game was an absolute must win for the US and they were able to win in the end but didn’t exactly put in an impressive performance. They will have to improve their overall performance in the game against Portugal.
Portugal started the World Cup in the worst way possible; they were annihilated by Germany 4-0 in their opening game. They completely imploded and put in one of the worst performances in the tournament so far. Portugal conceded an early penalty and a goal from a corner putting them 2-0 down inside 35 minutes. In the 37th minute, Pepe was sent off for a headbutt, after which the game was pretty much over. The Portuguese had multiple injuries to add, so if they lose their next game, they are likely out of the World Cup so they will come out with a lot of urgency.
Both teams have major injury concerns. Jozy Altidore will be a big miss for the United States with the hamstring injury he suffered against Ghana. Matt Beasler also suffered a hamstring injury vs Ghana, but he looks like he will be okay for the Ghana game. Portugal will be missing Pepe through suspensions after his idiotic headbutt on Thomas Mueller, but they will also be without Fabio Coentrao, Rui Patricio, and Hugo Almeida through injuries they picked up against Germany.
The United States and Portugal have only faced off once before in the World Cup. The two were paired in the same group in 2002 and played against each other in the first group game. The United States came out shock 3-2 winners. The other four meetings between the two sides were in 1992 or earlier with Portugal winning two, United States winning one, and one draw. Between the injuries to Hugo Almeida, Fabio Coentrao, Rui Patricio, and the suspension of Pepe, Portugal will be missing 192 caps worth of experience.
For Portugal the key man is most obviously thier captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, the current Ballon d’Or winner, is arguably the best player in the world, at the moment. Portugal heavily relies on it’s superstar; in the play off to get into the World Cup, the Real Madrid superstar scored all four of Portugal’s goals over the two legs, including a hat trick in the second leg. The former Manchester United man is clearly not fully fit and was seen with a bag of ice on his knee after training once again. Despite not being fully fit, Ronaldo will still have to be the driving force behind this Portuguese team.
The key man for the United States will be their midfield general, Michael Bradley. Bradley was poor against Ghana, as the Toronto midfielder’s passing was off the mark most of the game. Jurgen Klinsmann has been deploying the New Jersey born midfielder in the attacking midfield role despite him normally playing deeper. The former AS Roma man is widely considered to be the American’s best player and will need to come up with a much better performance against Portugal than he did against Ghana. His drive and creativity from the midfield will be vital for the United States success.
After their heavy defeat to Germany, the Portugal squad will be feeling much like a wounded animal. No animal is more dangerous than a wounded animal. Portugal will likely come out fired up looking to avenge their heaviest World Cup defeat ever with the United States looking to contain them. Realistically, the US only need a draw from this game however they will obviously not want to play like that, but a draw will do them more good than it will Portugal. In the end, I think Portugal will have trouble with all their injuries and suspensions and the United States will get the draw they need.