Portugal and their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo are under huge pressure to deliver in tonight's do-or-die clash with the United States, with defeat in Manuas enough to end their chances of qualifying from Group G after a truly horrific start to their World Cup finals.
Paulo Bento's side lost 5-1 to Germany on Monday and lost Pepe to suspension after a frankly stupid red card, while injury ended Fabio Coentrao's tournament prematurely and left Hugo Almeida also struggling to play any further part in the tournament.
Ronaldo and his under-fire side have waited six long days to atone for that nightmare Salvador, but the perfect opportunity to do just that against a buoyant United States side, who despite riding a wave of momentum also suffered their fair share of injury complaints in a 2-1 victory against Ghana.
Stars and Stripes boss Jurgen Klinsmann will be without pivotal central striker Jozy Altidore after his hamstring strained against Ghana, but the catalyst for that Clint Dempsey is fit to start tonight despite breaking his nose and moves into attack to compensate for the Sunderland forward's absence.
The teams are as follows:
Portugal: Beto; Pereira, Costa, Alves, Almeida; Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
USA: Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones, Zusi, Bradley, Bedoya; Dempsey
Prediction: Unless Ronaldo can put doubts over fitness behind him to light up this pivotal Group H encounter you can expect a tight affair, with a congested midfield area where craft is matched by energy and work-rate for both sides.
Judging from this goal-crazy World Cup though anything is possible, but the pressure is really on Portugal and they need the likes of returning Helder Postiga and the perennially misfiring Nani to ease Ronaldo's burden and stand up to be counted.
Portugal cannot afford to lose and with in mind Ronaldo is a man for the big occasion and can make all the difference, opening his World Cup account in a hard-fought victory for the European side to throw Group G wide open, but only just.
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