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World Cup

  • June 22, 2014
  • • 23:00
  • • Arena Amazônia, Manaus, Amazonas
  • Referee: N. Pitana
  • • Attendance: 40123
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USA - Portugal Preview: Ronaldo fitness overshadows must-win clash

USA - Portugal Preview: Ronaldo fitness overshadows must-win clash

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The Real Madrid superstar continues to struggle with a knee injury as his country go into a match they will likely need three points from to keep their qualification hopes alive

By Sam Lee in Manaus

Portugal prepare for their must-win game against the United States in Manaus with major doubts over the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo, and they will definitely be without Pepe and Fabio Coentrao.

Ronaldo has been struggling with a knee injury since the final weeks of the domestic season, with reports in Spain before the tournament suggesting he is endangering his career by playing through the pain.

He completed most of his country’s training session on Wednesday but left early with heavy strapping on his troublesome left knee.

Pepe will miss the game at the Arena da Amazonia thanks to the red card he picked up against Germany, and Coentrao has been ruled out of the tournament after being stretchered off in the same game.

Ricardo Costa filled in at centre-back against the Germans and Andre Almeida replaced Coentrao, and both are expected to start on Sunday.

Should Ronaldo not make it coach Paulo Bento will likely bring in Silvestre Varela on the left, and there are also concerns about Hugo Almeida, who departed for Eder in the Germany defeat.

Meanwhile, the US, who could seal their progression if they win and Germany beat Ghana, are without Jozy Altidore, who pulled a hamstring in their opening victory against the Ghanaians. Aron Johannsson should take his place.

Tactical uncertainty has been a feature of Jurgen Klinsmann’s reign, and it has been difficult to predict which players and even which system he will use from game to game, so there may be a surprise in store.

The last time the two sides met was at the 2002 World Cup, with the United States winning 3-2.

Portugal coach Bento came on as a second-half substitute in the match, which was refereed by Byron Moreno, the disgraced Ecuadorian who recently served 26 months in a US jail after trying to smuggle six kilograms of heroin through JFK Airport. 

Players to watch

M. Bradley

Position: Midfielder

Games: 0

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
He faded towards the end of the win over Ghana and that could well be a factor in Manaus, where players have complained about the hot conditions. But he will be the key man if the States want to shut down Portugal’s midfield and limit the space in which Ronaldo can work. Back at Toronto after spells in the Netherlands, Germany, England and Italy, he has proved a cornerstone of Jurgen Klinmann’s ever-changing side.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Position: Attacker

Games: 0

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
He may have only scored two World Cup goals from 55 shots in his career, but he is undoubtedly his country’s main man. But if he is not fully fit, as was patently the case against Germany, he could do more harm than good, both to his own long-term fitness and his team’s chances. The Seleccao looked bereft of ideas on Monday, passing the ball to their talisman at the earliest opportunity, only for him to not do anything with it. He will make or break his country’s hopes here.

Editor's Prediction

The outcome of this match will depend almost entirely on just how fit Cristiano Ronaldo is. The Manaus conditions will make life difficult for both sides, and Jozy Altidore's absence gives the USA an additional problem if they find themselves under pressure and in need of an attacking outlet. The smart money is on Portugal - and their star man - having just enough in the tank to get the result they need.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

United States

Portugal

Wins
2
1
1
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

United States USA
United States United States
Draw
Portugal PRT
Portugal Portugal
35%
54%

Top 3 Predictions

United States USA
2 - 1
Portugal PRT
United States USA
1 - 2
Portugal PRT
United States USA
0 - 2
Portugal PRT

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