A few seconds more and the U.S. would of made history of making the round of 16 for two connectives World Cups, but a blunder in the midfield and a powerful header would end the game in a bitter 2-2 for the yanks.
Jorge Belon, Editor in Chief
MANAUS– In the fifth minute of stoppage time substitute forward Varela would put his name in history by scoring the tying goal for Portugal in a 2-2 Amazon thriller.
The United States veteran midfielder Michael Bradley, took a bad first touch on the ball, which resulted with the ball being stolen at midfield. Portugal immediately push the ball forward, with time running out they turned to their star, who was gliding at the right hand side of the field; Cristiano Ronaldo was waiting for the ball.
The Real Madrid attacking master mind went to work right away, he raced down the right hand side of the field, making DeMarcus Beasley follow him step by step, the four time World Cup veteran Beasley was forced to hesitate when Ronaldo begin to slow down his run, and saw Varela speeding down the left hand side of the field.
Varela quickly changed his direction towards the center of the penalty box. Ronaldo then sent an accurate cross right to the head of Varela. The Portuguese forward made no mistake and smashed the ball into the back of the net, giving American goalkeeper Tim Howard no chance of even making contact with the header.
After scoring the goal, the American players dropped their heads and could not believe what just happen. So close to clinching for the first time in U.S. history, a birth into the round of 16 for two consecutive World Cups. Within blink of an eye, the American where back at square one.
However, U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was both disappointed in the result, but he also saw the positive end of this match for the Americans.
“When you get a goal in the last second of the game, when you would’ve been on six points, then it’s a bummer for a moment that you have to swallow,”Klinsmann told Soccer By Ives. “But I think it was an outstanding game with all the players. We discussed at halftime, ‘It’s all good guys. We’re going to get this first goal and then we’re going to get a second goal. We felt very confident that we could turn things around, which we did that. We could’ve added a third or fourth goal with the chances we had. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that and it ended in a tie.”
The match did not start well for the yanks. A defensive blunder in the fifth minute of the match, gave Portugal striker Nani the easiest goal he would ever score in his career.
American defender Geoff Cameroon badly botched an easy clearance, the ball flew behind him and landed on the feet of Nani. The Manchester United forward was right in the penalty box, and he made no mistake and blasted the ball into the roof of the net, to give Portugal an early 1-0 lead.
After a few shaky minutes to start the game, the Americans settled in and begin to launch their own attack on the Portuguese defense.
“I thought we responded very, very well (with the way) we were able to calm down, to keep the ball,” American center back Matt Besler told Soccer By Ives. “We really got into a rhythm after they scored and played some of our best soccer.”
The half would end 1-0 in Portugal’s favor, the Americans now only had 45 minutes to tie the game or get the win. In the second half the Red, White and Blue responded with flare and determination.
The U.S. would continue knocking on the door, until German/American midfielder Jermaine Jones Jr would open his World Cup goal account with a goal that left Portuguese goalie Beto glued to the grass, and could only watch the ball curve into the right hand corner of the net.
At the 64 minute, Jones controlled a loose ball right outside the penalty box, he took a quick step to his right with the ball, buying a brief second of space to take a shot. The German native would then wind up and blast the ball to right hand corner of the net to tie the match at 1-1.
When the ball entered the back of the net, the Arena Amazonia exploded as the 20,000 plus American fans at the stadium screamed in joy. Their chants revived the U.S. players as they doubled their efforts on the offensive end, and kept pushing Portugal to the brink of elimination.
The U.S. would eventually take the lead at the 81 minute of the match. Substitute defender DeAndre Yedlin showed off his speed and was flying down the right hand side of the field, he turned the corner got passed his defender and sent in a low cross to the Captain Clint Dempsey.
The ball was deflected and instead the ball fell on the feet of Bradley, surprised that the ball arrived to him, the Toronto FC midfielder was first trying to control the ball, and then passed it to midfielder Graham Zusi that came to his left. Zusi collected the ball and wasted no time and sent a ball to Dempsey.
The captain timed his run perfectly and beat the off-sides trap and made contact with the ball by hitting it with his lower stomach. The ball entered the back of the net, and the U.S. had taken a 2-1 lead, and they looked destined to win the game and clinch their birth to the next round.
However, 14 minutes later the 20,000 U.S. fans hearts would drop when Varela would score to keep the Americans grounded in the first round for one more game.
“When you concede a goal in the last second then it’s unlucky. Our boys put in an extraordinary performance,” Klinsmann told FIFA.com after the match. “The journey’s now a little bit longer for us, but we want to beat Germany to confirm our place in the Round of 16. I’m a little frustrated with this draw, but we’re going to work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The United States will now have to face Germany on Thursday, June 26 at Recife. If the Americans win or tie the Germans they will make the second round, seven points with a victory and five points with a tie. However, if they lose, then they will need to make sure that Portugal and Ghana play to tie. Or Portugal does not win by more than four goals and that Ghana does not win by more than two goals, since the Americans have a better goal differential at the moment.
As for Portugal they need to beat Ghana by four of more goals to just have a chance to advance to the next round, but they will also need a favor from Germany. They will need the Germans to defeat the Americans. However, first they will need to take care of business against the West African Nation at Brasilia.
Bonus fact, since this is the last game of the group stages both matches of this group will be played simultaneously.
To see the highlights of this match click on this link http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1904119, video provided by ESPN FC.