World Cup Group G preview: USA v Portugal

USA take on Portugal for their second Group G match at the Arena Amazonia in warm Manaus on Monday, June 23, from 8am (AEST).

Head to head

Played 5: USA 2 wins, Portugal 2 wins, 1 draw.

Their last meeting was the 2002 World Cup, where USA opened their campaign with a 3-2 win, and finished the group ahead of Portugal as they are aiming to do this time. The only player remaining from that clash is US left back DaMarcus Beasly, the first US player to lineup at four World Cups.

The game

Portugal came into this tournament with reasonable expectations, get out of the group and who knows what can happen in a knockout. Their first round performance had no positives - they played poorly, lost players to injury and suspension and had little to be excited about from their superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Conversely, the United States played with hope – being 1-0 up after 32 seconds can do that. Clint Dempsey’s goal gave them the shot in the arm they needed and they will have the belief they can get a result and out of the group.

The big issue

The Portuguese squad was flimsy enough before injuries to their starting keeper, striker and left back. Just how far does this squad stretch before it breaks? The one they will miss the most is Fabio Coentrao, whose combination with Ronaldo has been important at club and international level.

But if the captain himself is missing, that’s a different kettle of fish. There have been rumours that Ronaldo’s tendinitis is not healing as expected, and it would be a tragedy if he were forced out of the tournament injured.

The game breaker

Goals and who will score them. To be fair, that’s the game breaker in every game of football, but looking at the teams, the quality is thin beyond the two top scorers. US manager Jurgen Klinsmann will know pace is the best way to get at Portugal.

Germany played the same quick balls over the top all game, and a strong presence on the wing will be vital to them getting forward. In my previous preview I mentioned Bayern Munich’s Julian Green as one to watch for the Yanks - this could be a good match for him.

Prediction: Draw

One team is on the up, the other in free fall. The heat and humidity of the Amazon will restrict both teams. It won’t be a high scoring affair and a draw is very likely. That will suit the United States, and it’s up to Portugal’s captain to snatch the points and drag his team back into this World Cup.