USA and Portugal will go head to head this evening in the challenging climate of Manaus with the European side knowing that another defeat will end their World Cup hopes, while a win for the Americans would see them qualify for the knockout stages with a game still to play.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will be going into the match brimming with confidence following their dramatic and deserved opening 2-1 victory against Ghana, John Brooks’ late header secured them a vital three points.
While Paulo Bento’s men, on the back of a 4-0 thrashing from the Germans – their heaviest World Cup defeat ever – will be hoping their captain and star man Cristiano Ronaldo is fully fit and firing on all cylinders.
The former Manchester United forward has been dealing with a knee injury for the past few weeks and rumours suggest that he has not yet overcome it. Nevertheless, Portugal deny all speculation which means that the Real Madrid star could be set to start.
Although the Portuguese team will be missing the services of left-back Fabio Coentrao, who was ruled out of the tournament after sustaining a thigh injury during the group opener. Furthermore, his Real Madrid team-mate Pepe is suspended after being sent off for a ridiculous head-butt on Thomas Muller.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio and striker Hugo Almeida picked up muscle injuries and are also doubtful for the game tonight in the Arena Amazonia.
Klinsmann’s men will be without striker Jozy Altidore for the game after he suffered a hamstring strain during their opening win. However Clint Dempsey, who suffered a broken nose, is set to play from the start following his stunning solo effort in that game against the Black Stars.
The overall record between the USA and Portugal is perfectly balanced with two wins each, one draw and five goals apiece. However the Americans have been victorious in their last two meetings, including the encounter during the group stages of the 2002 World Cup, which finished 3-2 in the USA's favour. It’s their only other meeting at the World Cup and the current Portugal head-coach Bento came on as a substitute in that game, so he will remember it well.
The fact Portugal have only won one of their last eight games at the World Cup – the 7-0 v North Korea in 2010 – puts greater pressure on them gaining the victory tonight. They know that it is absolutely essential for them to win if they are to keep their World Cup fate in their own hands, as a draw will see them hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and a defeat would see them eliminated from the competition with a dead rubber against Ghana still to play.
The USA on the other hand could draw this one and still be favourites to advance from the group alongside their coach's home nation, Germany, but if they lose it will leave the group wide open with everything still to play for in the final game.
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