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World Cup Finals 2014
Match of the Day Live: USA v Portugal
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Just what is wrong with Cristiano Ronaldo? Portuguese media report that, despite medical claims suggesting he is putting his career at risk, the Real Madrid striker is determined to play tonight’s crucial match against the USA.
Perhaps this is all playing up to the mythology surrounding Ronaldo: the brilliant, belligerent virtuoso putting his body and his livelihood on the line for his country.
But as England fans know all too well, the idea of a nation’s star player returning from injury to carry his team has a certain resonance. Luis Suarez was the difference for Uruguay; a Ronaldo even half-fit may be too much for the maturing United States.
Despite occasional hesitancy against Ghana, Jurgen Klinsmann has breathed new life into this rapidly evolving US outfit. Striker Clint Dempsey linked up smartly with midfielder Jermaine Jones, while the Asamoah Gyan-led onslaught was effectively stifled for much of the game.
More importantly, though, the US's late winner proves this is a team who are no longer satisfied with strategic discipline and group scrapping. They might have to take some punches along the way, but they're also confident enough to chance their arm. With Portugal and Ronaldo looking fragile, a US haymaker might not be as far away as we think.
USA v Portugal (Kick-off 11.00pm). The Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, plays host to the latest World Cup fixture in what appears to be an intriguing Group G. The Americans are appearing at their seventh consecutive World Cup finals and defeated Ghana 2-1 in their first match, while the Portuguese were thrashed 4-0 by Germany in a disastrous opening fixture for them. Each team will look to their respective star players to provide an impact, and this is especially the case for Portugal, who boast this year's Ballon d'Or recipient Cristiano Ronaldo among their ranks. The Real Madrid star played a crucial role in his country's qualifying campaign, not least when scoring all four goals in his country's 4-2 aggregate victory over Sweden in the UEFA play-off matches, and he will have to produce his best form if Portugal are to progress further. In five previous meetings between these countries only one has taken place at a World Cup, when the USA triumphed 3-2 in a group-stage match in 2002. Presented by Gary Lineker, with commentary by Simon Brotherton and Mark Lawrenson.
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