Silvestre Varela scored in the fifth minute of stoppage-time to keep Portugal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup last night in dramatic fashion, forcing a 2-2 draw with the USA in Manaus.
Portugal were trailing 2-1 at Arena de Amazonia and just seconds away from an early Group G exit, when Cristiano Ronaldo’s deep cross was powerfully headed home by substitute Varela.
Paulo Bento’s men had taken a fifth-minute lead through Nani, before second-half goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey put Jurgen Klinsmann’s side on the brink of the last 16.
FORCED TO CHANGE TACT
Bento made four changes to the team that were thrashed 4-0 by Germany last Monday starting in goal with Beto replacing the injured Rui Patricio between the sticks. Fabio Coentrao was ruled out of the tournament earlier in the week, and made way for Andre Almeida at left back.
Ricardo Costa came in at centre-half for the suspended Pepe, while Helder Postiga led the attack in place of injured Hugo Almeida.
The only American change was forced upon them as Graham Zusi came in up front for Jozy Altidore, who was forced off after pulling his hamstring in the win against Ghana.
Nani gave the Europeans the perfect start after just five minutes, when Geoff Cameron’s sliced clearance fell to the Manchester United winger who had time to take aim and fire into the roof of the net.
Portugal’s attacking problems continued as Postiga limped off on 16 minutes, and the US nearly took advantage as Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson both shot just wide of the target.
The Portuguese almost doubled their lead just before half-time when Nani hit the post before Eder’s follow-up was just about pushed away by a scrambling Tim Howard.
Bradley was denied after the break by a brilliant goal-line clearance from Costa following some great Johnson work down the right. But the US did get their equaliser on 64 minutes, when a corner was only cleared as far as Jones whose thumping effort from outside the area bent inside the far post.
The Star and Stripes then went in front with nine minutes remaining, as Bradley’s deflected effort broke kindly for Zusi whose cross was turned in on the line by the stomach of Dempsey.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
That looked enough to give the Americans another famous victory over Portugal following their 3-2 win in the 2002 finals. They were just seconds away from qualifying for the last 16 and sending their opponents home when Ronaldo, very much a passenger throughout the contest, sent in the perfect inviting cross for substitute Varela to head home and rescue his nation.
All of Group G’s outcomes will now be decided on Thursday, with Portugal and Ghana both looking for a good win against each other to give themselves a chance of progressing. While a draw for the US and Germany will be enough to see both sides through.