Just seconds away from crashing out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Group stage, Cristiano Ronaldo has inspired Portugal to a last-gasp 2-2 draw with the United States in their match at the Arena Amazonia this morning.
Clear favourites leading into just their second fixture at the 2014 World Cup, Portugal were expected to put on a clinic when facing off with the USA and appeared well and truly on track when Manchester United winger Nani took advantage of a failed Geoff Cameron clearance; burying the ball in the back of Tim Howard’s net in just the fifth minute.
Continuing to press forward, Portugal were unlucky not to convert on several proceeding raids on Howard’s goal, who inspired the Stars and Stripes into action with several impressive saves.
Shifting the run of play somewhat, the US finally began to maintain their time on ball resulting in several good opportunities, including an impressive give and go by Johnson in the 15th minute.
Completely shifting the run of play in their favour, the United States were continually denied by Portugal’s scrambling defence, and were almost hit a second time when Howard failed to get a good touch on what appeared to be a harmless Nani attempt on goal, having to stretch out to reach the second attempt and keeping his side just one goal off the pace at half time.
Returning from the break in similarly positive form, the United States were able to complete more passes and hold possession, allowing their attacking force more time to set.
Winning a corner, the USA appeared to have wasted a good opportunity before classy mid Jermaine Jones lined up a shot at the edge of the Portuguese 18-yard box, burying the ball in the right corner of Beto’s goal to level the scores at one-a-piece.
Appearing to have completely taken the wind out of Portugal’s sails and continuing to keep the ball away from danger-man Ronaldo, the United States pressed forward and completely caught the Portuguese defence off guard, finding themselves 4-3 and capitalising in the best way possible when a Zusi pass found Captain Clint Dempsey in space, who calmly chested the ball into the net to send his team to a shock lead.
Unable to hold the ball for extensive periods over the final ten minutes of regular play, Portuguese heads began to drop upon reaching the 90th minute as players, management and fans all began to see their hopes of progression fade away.
Claiming the ball on halfway in the fifth minute of extra time, Ronaldo displayed his typical class in beating three US defenders, making his way to the corner of the 18-yard box before laying in a pinpoint accurate cross to the head of Silvestre Varela with the game’s final play to level the scores at 2-2 and allow Portugal and attempt to progress when facing Ghana in their final Group G match on Friday morning; a match for which they are clear $2.10 favourites to win at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Coming within seconds of clinching assured qualification to the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup, the USA will now face Germany on Friday morning, and will only have to ensure a close score line to progress in place of Portugal.