The fourth game of group G in this 2014 World Cup will be played between USA and Portugal on Sunday, 22 June.
Two injury-ravaged sides hrere but with contrasting fortunes in their respective opening matches, will hope to win this tie to keep their qualification hopes alive.
USA are not a team you would filled with superstars and technically-gifted individuals; they have are a few decent players such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley but they too are not game-changers of the class of Ronaldo, Messi and Suarez.
They still managed to beat a talented Ghana side in the first game however and this is a testament of the work ethic and determination instilled by their German coach, Jurgen Klinsmann.
USA’s squad was a project in progress for the past four years and Klinsmann has taken good steps to integrate the new blood into the team early.
The number of new, untested faces likes John Brooks and Aron Johansson, whose World Cup debut was under stressful circumstances shows the manager’s faith in the newer guys, and although both struggled at times during the match it is part of the learning curve.
Portugal’s talent pool seemed to have dried up over the past few years with the only exception of William Carvalho, who can be considered to be a world-class talent.
Like the previous major tournaments, over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be the recurring theme. The defence looks suspect with the first choice goalkeeper, Rui Patricio carrying nerves throughout the Germany game and now Pepe suspended all the defensive responsibility falls on the burly Bruno Alves.
Injury to Fabio Coentrao has robbed the Portugal coach, Paulo Bento of an attacking outlet on the left flank (Coentrao was the only player who was good against the efficient Germany side).
The importance of this game for both sides cannot be over-stated. USA have three points from their opener but have Germany to face next – a tough cookie under any circumstances. What that means is that a loss to Portugal in this one will force them into beating the Germans next and that’s something that’s quite difficult to imagine – all the previous upsets in the tournament notwithstanding.
The loss of burly striker Jozy Altidore to injury would be a big headache for Klinsmann as he does not have a like-for-like replacement and would need to change his system to accommodate the mobile and less physical Johansson upfront.
Not selecting Landon Donovan in the squad might come back to haunt Klinsmann now as his technical ability provides more flexibility to the starting XI.
Portugal’s morale will be at its ebb, but they need to get themselves together and perform as a team rather than trying to pass it only to Ronaldo. Players like Nani also need to finally step up and deliver.
Instead of playing Miguel Veloso, Bento should be playing Carvalho, who is physically more imposing than Veloso playing in the holding role. Like the USA, Portugal lost their striker Hugo Almeida and had to play elder for three-fourths of the opening match.
Eder’s hold up play and good passing is quite good and should start against the USA. The concerns over who should partner Alves should be taken care of by Bento.
Portugal will need to step up heavily on their defence to take away full points from this one.
Both teams to score: 13/14 (888Sport)
Over 2.5 goals in the game: 10/11 (Coral)