|Portugal rescues 2-2 draw with US at World Cup|
|Sunday, June 22, 2014 8:08 PM|
MANAUS, Brazil — They were less than 30 seconds away. The Americans were about to romp into the round of 16 at the World Cup, about to walk off with their first come-from-behind win at soccer’s showcase. About to advance with a game to spare. About to win consecutive World Cup games for the first time since 1930.
But they wilted in the Amazon heat and humidity.
Cristiano Ronaldo set up Varela for a late equalizer on a hot and humid night in the jungle Sunday to give Portugal a 2-2 draw with the United States and hope for a spot in the second round of the World Cup.
Ronaldo, who has been playing despite a left knee injury, sent in a cross in the fifth minute of stoppage time and Varela scored with a diving header in the last seconds of the match.
“We had one foot in the door,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Nani had scored first for Portugal, shooting past a sprawling Howard in the fifth minute on Geoff Cameron’s wayward clearance, but the Americans responded in the second half as Portugal seemed to wilt in the stifling heat.
Jermaine Jones made it 1-1 with a curling shot in the 64th minute after a cross from Graham Zusi made its way through the Portugal defense.
Clint Dempsey, playing with a broken nose, then put the Americans ahead in the 81st. The United States captain used his stomach to direct the ball into the net from a cross by Zusi.
A screaming, pro-American majority in the crowd of 40,123 was ready to party late into the steamy night.
Then Varela beat Cameron to the cross, deflating the red, white and blue-clad fans.
The last-second draw denied the Americans a spot in the second round but it kept Portugal alive in the tournament.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the positives: We got a point,” American captain Clint Dempsey said. “We put in a good performance. I thought we played better than the last game. I thought we moved the ball better. I thought we created more chances. Just unlucky.
The United States now has four points in Group G, the same as Germany, but the Germans have a better goal difference. Both Portugal and Ghana have one point. The Americans will face Germany on Thursday in Recife, while Portugal takes on Ghana at the same time in Brasilia.
Now the Americans may need at least a point Thursday to advance to the knockout stage. They could advance with a loss, depending on the result of the Portugal-Ghana game that will be played simultaneously.
“Now we have to go out and beat Germany; that’s what we have to do,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We have to play Germany, we have one less day to recover, we played in the Amazon, they played on a place with less travel. We have to do it the tough way.”
It was all Portugal for much of the first half, with Ronaldo in the starting lineup but getting less involved as the match progressed. The Americans, however, started to get more and more chances and even had a shot from Michael Bradley cleared off the line by Ricardo Costa in the 55th.
The heat in the Amazon rainforest, however, seemed to slow the Portuguese as the match wore on.
In the 39th minute, referee Nestor Pitana on Argentina called for a cooling break, the first such decision to be taken at the World Cup.
At the start of the match, FIFA listed the temperature at 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) with 66-percent humidity. FIFA uses the “Wet Bulb Globe Temperature” to determine when official cooling breaks should be added and says the WGBT must be above 32 degrees C (90 degrees F) for them to be considered.
The breaks are supposed to occur in the 30th and 75th minutes.
Dempsey’s goal was his fourth at a World Cup and second at this year’s tournament. Jones scored his third goal for the United States national team and first in almost two years.
Just like four years ago, the Americans relied on a late push. But they couldn’t sustain it.
Now it’s onto Recife. Nothing is decided.
They could move on. Or after all this, they could be sent home.
“It was unfortunate,” Klinsmann added, “An amazing game, amazing performance by our guys. Nothing more that you can ask for.”
United States: Tim Howard; Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley; Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya (DeAndre Yedlin, 72), Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi (Omar Gonzalez, 90); Clint Dempsey (Chris Wondolowski, 87).
Portugal: Beto; Andre Almeida (William Carvalho, 46), Ricardo Costa, Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira; Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles (Varela, 69th), Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo; Helder Postiga (Eder, 16th).
Asia having a terrible World Cup; Russia too
RIO DE JANEIRO — At midway point, the World Cup went from bad to worse for Asia and the tournament’s next host, Russia. But it went from great to even better for spectators hankering for goals.
South Korea teeters on the verge of elimination after losing 4-2 to Algeria on Sunday. Asia is now at real risk of having no team in the next knockout round of football’s showcase.
One of the four Asian nations — Australia — is already sure to be going home, regardless of whether it wins its last match against dethroned champion Spain.
Iran, Japan and Korea could follow Australia out the door, even if they win their last matches. Korea’s loss worsened Asian teams’ already dismal record to: played eight games, won none, after 11 days of competition,
Russia’s hopes of moving to the knockout stages were also diminished by its 1-0 loss Sunday to Belgium in Rio de Janeiro. Belgium became the sixth country to qualify for the next stage. The others so far are the Netherlands, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica and Argentina. Cameroon, Bosnia, Australia, Spain and England are definitely out.
Russia will host the 2018 World Cup.
The late game on Sunday, the USA’s draw with Portugal, was the 32nd of 64 matches to be held at this World Cup.
Midway through, the statistics are proving what spectators are fathoming out for themselves: this tournament in the spiritual home of football is far more watchable than the last one in South Africa, with many more goals and half as many draws than at the same stage in 2010.
The 4-2 Algeria-Korea score-fest in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil was the tenth game — nearly one third of the total so far — to see four goals or more. The goal total for the tournament ahead USA-Portugal later Sunday has now climbed to 90.
In South Africa, the first 32 matches produced 67 goals, seven of them scored by Portugal in just one match against North Korea, and 10 draws. In Brazil, there have been just five draws so far.
Ghana federation calls in police on fixing sting: Ghana’s football association says it called in police after being linked to match-fixing in a British media undercover sting.
The football body asked Ghana police to “investigate two persons for misrepresenting the GFA with an attempt to defraud.”
Broadcaster Channel 4 and the Daily Telegraph reported the allegations one day after Ghana drew 2-2 with Germany at the World Cup.
They allege a FIFA-licensed match agent and Ghana club chief executive offered to organize national team friendlies to be fixed.
The men were “allegedly filmed claiming that they would bribe GFA officials to ensure that the contract is signed,” the federation says in a statement.
The Ghana federation says no contract was signed and “the two gentlemen did not make such corrupt offers.”
FIFA has been informed.