USA v Portugal: Expert v Expert Preview


Both the USA  and Portugal  experienced differing emotions in their first matches. Our experts Janusz Michallik and Tom Kundert take up their stories ahead of this meeting in Manaus.

TEAM NEWS

Janusz Michallik on USA: The dramatic win against Ghana came at a cost, as Jozy Altidore looks to be out of the tournament with a hamstring injury (unconfirmed). I expect the lineup to be the same, with Chris Wondolowski in for Altidore. Clint Dempsey broke his nose, but will be available and will start, wearing a protective mask. Matt Besler was substituted with a hamstring issue and trained separate from the team initially, but later rejoined the team for the rest of practice. He is expected to start in his usual centre-back position. If not, John Brooks, who came to deputize for him and scored the winner late in the game, is ready to step in.

Tom Kundert on Portugal: With three regulars out (Rui Patrício, Fábio Coentrão injured, Pepe suspended) and Bruno Alves also battling to be fit, manager Paulo Bento faces a number of key selection decisions. Eduardo’s experience should get him the nod between the sticks, with defenders Ricardo Costa and André Almeida and striker Hélder Postiga also in line for their first start at the tournament, although Éder’s positive display as a substitute against Germany could see him as the chosen centre forward.

FORM

Janusz Michallik: Getting the result against Ghana was always important for USA, but in terms of style of play, they didn’t impress. USA did not possess the ball due to an unusual off night by their most consistent and arguably best player in Michael Bradley. USA will once again have to get a great performance from Geoff Cameron and Besler, as well as what was a monumental effort from Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, who occupied the holding midfield positions. Against the talented and angry Portuguese team, the USA will have to show a higher level of sophistication and ability to thwart and negate the supply line to Cristiano Ronaldo, who of course will be their biggest threat. The USA was out possessed 62%-38% by Ghana and another gritty performance may not be enough against a quality team like Portugal.

Tom Kundert: A disastrous showing against Germany in Portugal’s opener led to a torrent of criticism back home. “Shameful” and “disgrace” were just two adjectives generously employed by the Portuguese press. Manager Paulo Bento reacted by saying it would be a mistake to completely overhaul the team, but injuries and suspensions have forced his hand. Portugal have played USA once before in World Cup history, when the Americans pulled off a shock 3-2 win in 2002. The good news? Ghana’s draw against Germany means Portugal’s fate is back in their own hands.

WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY

USA’s Jurgen Klinsmann:  "We want to take our game to Portugal. ... We are very impatient. We can't wait to get this thing started." On whether Ronaldo is more famous in USA than him. "Well, that probably is true."

Portugal’s Paulo Bento: “The time for talking has finished. It’s simple. We either win or we start packing our bags. When the pressure is on we usually get the job done.”

KEY MAN

Janusz Michallik: Michael Bradley. To a degree, it is incredible that USA got a result against Ghana without Bradley playing a significant role. The hope, of course, will be that it’s impossible to think that he can have another game like this. He deserves a benefit of the doubt, as he has been a linchpin and the heart of the midfield, and one player that ensures positive possession on the team. The USA will be hoping that this was just a blip that sometimes happens to players for no logical reason.

Tom Kundert: Portugal need their talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo more than ever in the Brazilian jungle. Despite constant reports to the contrary, the player and coaching staff insist the Real Madrid superstar is fit enough to make a full contribution. CR7 has shone brightly for Portugal since his former Sporting team-mate Paulo Bento took the reins, scoring 24 goals in 33 games for his country, but he has only found the net twice in two previous World Cups. Ronaldo needs to add to that total to prevent Portugal’s World Cup coming to a premature end. 

BEST BET

Janusz Michallik: Bradley looks a good bet at any time to redeem himself and score at 9.50, as, knowing his personality, he will be more than motivated to show his leadership and willingness to take responsibility on his shoulders.Chris Wondolowski is your typical poacher with a very keen nose for goal for club or country. Take him for the first goal at 11.50 if he starts, but he’s also a good value to score coming off the bench.

Tom Kundert: With so much riding on the game, the stifling weather conditions and a dearth of natural goalscorers on either side – bar Ronaldo – chances will be few and far between. Portugal to sneak it 1-0 at 7.50 looks a good value bet.

SCORE PREDICTION

Janusz Michallik: This time, I will sit on the fence, as USA will be more than happy with a draw here. 1-1 is how I see this (hoping). That's at 7.50.

Tom Kundert: Cometh the hour, cometh the man. It won’t be pretty but captain Ronaldo to score the only goal of the game as Portugal win 1-0. This scorecast is 16.00.

 

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