Monday, June 23, 2014

World Cup 2014 : USA vs Portugal 2-2

It was a do or die match for Portugal & they needed a win to remain in plausible contention for the tournament. For the injury plagued Christiano Ronaldo, it was a tall order in offing, to infuse belief in his players by leading from the front. USA, under inspirational coaching of Jurgen Klinsmann on the other hand, needed a win to seal their place in the round of 16.... enough motivation for both the team to play.
The match started with Portugal seizing from a defensive lapse as early as 5 minutes into the game, as Nani smashed the ball into the roof of the net 1-0.
USA took time to recover from this early shock, & Dempsey, Bradley, Zusi & others try had to break in, but the Portugal defense held good till the half time. In fact, just at the stroke of the lemon break, Nani could have increased the lead, but his rasping shot beat the goalkeeper only to hit the bar & on rebound Eder's shot was barely tipped over the bar by the American keeper Howard.... a magnificent save. The first half was evenly poised, though Portugal had that all important lead.
Second half had a purposeful US on the turf, as they pressed hard for the equaliser. Johnson & Bradley combined well, running into the Portugal box & Bradley's low hit is miraculously blocked out by defender, Costa. Portugal defense was coming under heavy pressure in the absence of Pepe, out with suspension & Coentrao, out with injury & with Postiga getting eplaced early in the match, they were looking vulnerable. The Americans finally earned a flag kick in the 63rd minute, & a goalmouth clearance saw the ball reach Jones, who smashed a long ranger & the ball swerved in the air to go past the Portugal goalkeeper Beto. It was one of the best goals of the tournament thus far, as the scoreline read 1-1. Surprisingly USA went into somewhat of a shell after this as Ronaldo & Co tried to make amends & came close to scoring a couple of times. But against the run of play, Yedlin, having just come in as a substitute, raced into the Portugal half & crossed over to Bradley whose shot was blocked, but the ball went to Zusi & then to Dempsey who neatly chested the ball was 2-1 for USA against the run of play. The last ten odd minutes were scrambles at both end, with frantic clearances, as the extra time shown was for 5 minutes.
It was in these dying minutes of the extra time, that Ronaldo redeemed himself & his team with a superb cross from the right into the box & substitute Valera headed in a bullet past a hapless Howard...the match ended in a 2-2 draw, much to the chagrin of the US players & supporters.....they missed out on a victory & will now have to wait agonisingly for their last match against the Germans. To qualify, they need a draw, but even if they lose by not more than two goals, they came go through on goal difference.
For Portugal, they now hang by the skin of the teeth, needing a big win against Ghana, who are quite a formidable opponent. In fact Ghana has a better chance to go through, if they can win by at least 2-0 margin.