Team USA still in a good place approaching final World Cup match
United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann moves in to shake the hand of United States defender Matt Besler (5) after their 2-2 tie with Portugal in a 2014 World Cup game at Arena Amazonia on Sunday. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
The first is that Team USA was seconds away from an historic World Cup victory when one of the best players in the world made a play that only best players in the world can make.
The glass-half-empty view is that the Americans blew the opportunity to clinch a spot in the round of 16 and now must get some kind of positive result in their final Group G match against Germany on Thursday or risk not advancing at all.
But the Portuguese star waited until virtually the last play of the game to help pull his nation from the jaws of elimination, and that can’t help but skew things a little.
“We just have to go forward the tougher way. You got to get a result against Germany, and that’s what we are going to do.
That is easier said than done because the image of Varela slipping by two American defenders and heading in a perfect cross from Ronaldo is the kind that sears into the memory.
U.S. defenders Geoff Cameron, Matt Bessler and Fabian Johnson will wonder how they let Varela get to the only spot to which Ronaldo could have delivered a game-tying cross.
“But that’s soccer. It can certainly be a cruel game sometimes.”
Everything is still right there in front of the United States.
“We’re disappointed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the positives,” said striker Clint Dempsey who used his stomach to put in a cross from Graham Zusi to give the USA a 2-1 lead win the 81st minute. “It’s going down to the last game and hopefully we get the job done.”
If what happened against Portugal is still in the heads of the U.S. players, getting that result against a German team that is just as desperate will be that much more difficult.
With four points, both the United States and Germany will advance with a win or a draw in their match.
With one point, Ghana will advance if it beats Portugal and the U.S.-Germany game produces a winner, and then if it wins the tiebreaker with the loser.
If Portugal and Ghana tie, then both the USA and Germany will advance.
With only a tie needed for both teams to advance, the conspiracy theorists are already wondering if the USA and Germany will collaborate.
“I don’t think that we are made for draws unless it happens like tonight,” Klinsmann said when asked about playing for a draw with Germany. “Both teams want to win the game and win the group.
Yes, the opportunity to have already moved on in the tournament was lost in the closing seconds against Portugal.