The USA would be the first team to advance out of Group G into the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup with a win Sunday against Portugal. While the lads from America are in a prime position to move forward, the draw Saturday between Germany and Ghana has left the door open for the rest of the teams in the group to advance.
After being decimated by Germany in the group opener for the World Cup, Portugal is looking for a way to come together as a team to defeat the USA and somehow climb into the next round. It will be a difficult road for the Portuguese. The team will be without a key defender for the next match on Sunday. Pepe was issued a single game suspension after delivering a headbutt to German Thomas Müller on Monday. Portugal also lost left-back Fabio Coentrao in the same game with a tournament ending injury. Coentrao suffered an injury to the defender’s thigh in the opening match.
Missing Pepe and Coentrao will hamper Portugal and is only part of the team issues. The big question is the offense. Against Germany, Portugal’s offense looked flat. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s offensive star, has suffered with a reoccurring left leg injury for some time. The superstar did not look to be hampered much by the injury during the Germany game. However, the forward and the rest of the offense did not appear to be in sync at all. Since that first game, Ronaldo has left practice sessions early with the injured knee packed in ice raising questions about the superstar’s ability.
The advantage an injured Ronaldo would give to the USA could be enough to push the American team to victory in the FIFA World Cup first round. After Portugal’s 0-4 loss to Germany on Monday, and seeing the Ghana team draw with the German squad Saturday after the USA toppled the Black Stars 2-1 could boost the US confidence enough to defeat the desperate Portuguese team. The USA is not without any disadvantages of their own going into the Group G match up.
US forward Jozy Altidore severely injured his hamstring against Ghana and will be out for Sunday’s matchup against Ronaldo and Portugal. Team captain Clint Dempsey received a kick to the face in the same game that broke his nose. Dempsey stayed in the game despite stating that it was hard to breath after the kick that bloodied him and required a brief moment on the sidelines to stop the bleeding. The captain will have the option to wear a protective mask against Portugal. Even with the injuries, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann feels confident and believes the team can defeat Portugal.
Anything can happen in the FIFA World Cup. Games from other groups have proved that already with the knockout of defending champions Spain. The emotional high the USA is riding would typically be enough of a boost for the squad. However, facing a top ranked Portugal team with the number one player in the world, it will be a difficult battle for the American’s to get their second Group G win and advance to the next round. Portugal will need to come together as a team to defeat the spunky US team.
Commentary by Carl Auer