Following victory over Ghana in their World Cup opener, the USA come into their second group stage fixture against Portugal on Sunday with renewed hope of reaching the knockout stages (6pm EST, live on ESPN).
The United States are currently second in Group G, level on points with leaders Germany. Portugal are bottom of the group following their 4-0 loss to the Germans. With goal difference in their favour, a draw on Sunday would put the USA in a very strong position going into the final round of fixtures.
Clint Dempsey gave the USA the lead inside the opening minute against Ghana, slaloming inside from the left before finishing low into the corner of the net. It was a goal that informed the pattern of the match, with Ghana having most of the ball and the USA content to sit back and soak up pressure.
Ghana eventually got their equaliser inside the final 10 minutes, only for the USA to push forward once more and restore their advantage when John Brooks headed in a right-wing corner in the 86th minute. It was an excellent result for Klinsmann and his team, but one that also highlighted some areas they will need to work on prior to this match.
Portugal will be required to commit men forward in order to overcome their goal-difference disadvantage and the USA will have opportunities on the counter-attack. Poor choices and over-exuberance in possession stymied most of their potential breaks against Ghana and they will need to be more precise here if they want to take full advantage.
Klinsmann will be without Jozy Altidore for the match in Manaus after the Sunderland striker pulled up with a strained hamstring 20 minutes into the victory over Ghana. Matt Besler is expected to overcome the hamstring tweak that saw him substituted at half-time. Dempsey could wear a mask after receiving a blow to his face in the first half of the same match.
Portugal endured a disastrous start to their World Cup campaign, going in three goals and a man down at half-time against a rampant Germany in Salvador. Their losing margin was extended to four during an otherwise spirited second-half performance, meaning that a strong victory in this match is pretty much essential if they hope to progress to the last 16.
Paulo Bento’s side struggled to deal with the varied final-third movement of the Germans, who set up without a recognised striker and regularly switched positions in attack. Bruno Alves and Pepe were ill-equipped to deal with such a threat, and their growing frustration was manifested in Pepe’s head-butt on Thomas Muller midway through the first half.
In attack, Portugal failed to create many chances of note, with the majority of their shots coming from outside the penalty area. This was in direct contrast to their opponents, who fashioned numerous high-quality chances inside the Portuguese 18-yard box. Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured) had a relatively quiet match, with none of his teammates providing an auxiliary threat.
Bento has a number of injury problems to contend with ahead of Sunday’s match. Fabio Coentrao has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament, while goalkeeper Rui Patricio and striker Hugo Almeida will both be sidelined for the remainder of the group stage. Pepe is suspended following his red card against Germany.
In addition, Ronaldo has been training with an ice-pack attached his troublesome left knee. He is, however, still expected to start.
USA vs Portugal Betting Picks Verdict
These two sides have met on three previous occasions, with the USA currently enjoying a two victories to one advantage over their European adversary. It was the USA who emerged triumphant in their only previous World Cup encounter, winning 3-2 to consign Portugal to a shock defeat in their opening match of the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea.
The USA got the victory they wanted against Ghana and now have an opportunity to put one foot in the door of the last 16. They defended well as a unit in their opening match and are likely to employ a similar approach against Portugal, with two narrow banks of four protecting Tim Howard’s goal. A draw would be an excellent result.
Injuries and suspensions will force Bento to alter his starting XI, but most of the changes will be like-for-like and are unlikely to have a transformative effect on Portugal’s style of play. Nor will they cure the ills of their first match, where they were outpaced and outmanoeuvred in defence and failed to create regular opportunities in the final third.
Portugal need to win by a big margin to overcome the thrashing by Germany in their opener, which, despite the fact that the USA are likely to adopt a defensive approach, should ensure there are a decent number of chances at both ends of the pitch. In the circumstances, the goals market looks the most attractive one for this particular match.