Tag Archives: Portugal

USA-Portugal Epic Preview

Note: I’m a bit late. It was supposed to be Saturday night, but oh well, I couldn’t do it by then. Yeah, I had a while, but I wasn’t able to get it done. Knowing me, it’s a good thing I completed it at all.

Are you excited for this game? You totally should be. Here’s a complete rundown of the compelling clash:

Contents:

Watch This – why you need to watch this.

Top 5 Storylines – a run-down of basically everything everyone will be talking about before the game.

Why it’s a Must-Win, but Mainly Just for Portugal – a scenario breakdown.

On Julian Green – will the over-hyped youngster play? (Spoiler alert: no.)

It’s Unrealistic – me not talking about Jürgen Klinsmann’s comments.

How will Portugal play? – I delve into the tactics of the US’s Iberian foes.

How will the US play? – I delve DEEP into the tactics of Portugal’s American foes.

Prediction – totally unbiased.

Watch This

Let me give you a possible advertisement of this game:

“USA. Portugal. Jungle. 5:30 ET on ESPN.”

If you aren’t super-excited to watch it right now, then you aren’t a human.

Top 5 Storylines

5. What will the effects of Manaus, in the Amazon Rainforest, do? (It’s all very unusual and not the optimal conditions–just like CONCACAF. I think it will hurt Portugal more than it will hurt the US.)

4. How will the US replace Jozy Altidore?

3. Can Cristiano Ronaldo score a World Cup goal against a team that’s actually good? Will he even play well at all, or is his injury too bad?

2. Can Portugal stay alive?

1. Can the US clinch, or at least make it hard not to clinch, a knockout round berth from the Group of Certain Death?

Why it’s a Must-Win, but Mainly Just for Portugal

Considering that Germany and Ghana drew, there are three different ways that the table can line up after this game:

(Note: the goal difference, that second number, assumes that the winner of the US-Portugal game wins by 1 goal. All the rest will definitely be accurate if the stated result happens.)

If the US beat Portugal:

USA…………6…+2

Germany…4…+4

Ghana……..1…-1

Portugal….0…-5

This means that US advancement would be clinched, while Portuguese elimination would also be clinched. A draw against Germany would mean that the US would win the group and thus wouldn’t have to play the Group H winner (probably Belgium).

If Portugal beat the US:

Germany…4…+4

USA…………3….0

Portugal….3…-3

Ghana……..1…-1

In this case, the US would need to beat Germany, or get a draw and hope that multiple other things happen, to advance. A loss against Germany would mean certain elimination if there’s a loss against Portugal. The US can’t lose both games and still advance, while a loss against Portugal would cut the US’s chances in less than half.

-In this scenario, the US would need: a win vs. Germany OR a draw vs. Germany and a Ghana win and goal difference OR a draw vs. Germany and a Portugal-Ghana draw and goal difference.

-In this scenario, Portugal would need: a win vs. Ghana OR a draw vs. Ghana and a Germany win OR a draw vs. Ghana and goal difference.

If the US and Portugal draw:

Germany…4…+4

USA…………4…+1

Ghana……..1…-1

Portugal….1…-4

This would mean that the US and Germany would be in a game to see who wins the group. In this scenario, if neither of the final matches end in draws, the second spot would be decided on goal difference between the winner of the USA-Germany game and the loser of the Ghana-Portugal game.

-In this scenario, the US would need: a draw vs. Germany OR a Portugal-Ghana draw OR goal difference.

-In this scenario, Portugal would need: a win vs. Ghana and a US-Germany non-draw and goal difference.

Observations from the scenarios:

-It is very important for the US to not lose. Yeah, anything can happen, but counting on a result against Germany is like counting on a St. Bernard to manually land a spacecraft on the moon.

-It is very important for Portugal to win. They need a bunch of stuff to happen to qualify if they get a draw, and if they lose, they’re out.

-Goal difference is very important. That’s why Thomas Muller, who put 3 past Portugal, might be the US’s most important player this World Cup. Portugal have a huge goal difference hole to climb out of. It’s a very hard group, with four teams that could each advance out of most groups, so big margins don’t come easily. This means that Portugal probably won’t climb out of their goal difference hole, which means that the US can get a draw in this game and have a very good chance to advance.

On Julian Green

Looking at my website’s stats, I can see who has found my website from different search terms. Someone found it by inquiring if Julian Green will start vs. Portugal. Answer? Not a chance.

In fact, I very, very highly doubt that Green will play a single minute, and if he does it’s in garbage time when the US is already probably 3 goals up or down, probably against his beloved Germany so that he can have his special moment. I’m sorry if that last bit sounded bitter. It didn’t? Well, it was meant to sound bitter, and I’m sorry for it.

As I said in my epic post about Green and Donovan, he doesn’t belong in the World Cup. He’s been terrible, and he has no experience above the German 4th division. And yes, I totally understand the German league system, with the Regionalliga and all. That’s not good enough for the US national team.

And on the part where I said “he’s been terrible,” you might say that I’m being too hard on him. No, I’m not. But, but, he’s just a kid! No, he isn’t. He’s a World Cup player. This isn’t a U-20 tournament. This isn’t a friendly camp. It’s the World Cup. If he’s selected for the World Cup, either the coach is delusional or he really is at World Cup level, in which case he must be held up to that standard. I’m not saying that he’s a bad person or that he won’t be good in the future, in fact he seems like a good kid and a promising talent, but he just isn’t good enough.

I watch MLS, and I will tell you that Diego Fagundez seems to be a much better player than Green. Fagundez plays for the New England Revolution, he’s only a few months older than Green, and if he had US eligibility (he’s working on it) I’d say he deserves to go to the World Cup more than Julian Green.

But for better or worse, Julian Green is on the World Cup squad. I seriously doubt he’ll get any minutes.

Don’t believe me? Well, if he was going to get playing time at the World Cup, don’t you think they would’ve played him for more than 27 minutes in the friendlies? Only the third-string goalkeeper played less than Green! Aron Jóhannsson was the only other outfield player to not play at least 45 minutes in the friendlies, and that was because of fitness issues. John Brooks, who wasn’t originally intended to even play, was the only player to play in the Ghana game without at least 100 minutes of playing time in the three warm-up games.

This is a guarantee: Julian Green will not play any meaningful minutes in this World Cup.

It’s Unrealistic

I had something written up basically detailing why the US will more than likely not win the World Cup, why that is okay (we don’t have nearly as good players as the better teams), why I’m not communist, and why everyone is making such a big deal out of Jürgen Klinsmann’s comments (if he says that the US will win the World Cup, then he’s setting himself up for failure).

I deleted all of that because everyone who follows soccer knows that the US probably won’t win the World Cup, that that’s okay (for now, at least), that I’m not a communist for thinking that, and that people like to make really big deals out of people’s comments.

How Will Portugal Play?

Probably like this:

Portugal vs. US Expected

There are a few lineup questions:

-Is goalkeeper Rui Patricio healthy? If not, they’ll go with Eduardo or Beto. The former has more experience with Portugal’s team, while the latter just won the Europa League. Tim Howard is better than all three. I’d even say that Brad Guzan is better than at least one or two of them, if not all three.

-Will the striker be Eder or Helder Postiga? Probably Eder, based mainly on the fact that he came on for Hugo Almeida when he got injured last game.

-Will Vieirinha make a surprise start in place of Nani?

-Will perhaps the youngster William Carvalho start ahead of Miguel Veloso?

-Will Luis Neto indeed start at center-back, or will we see Ricardo Costa, who is 7 years older than Neto?

And here are a few points about their players:

-Cristiano Ronaldo is the star for Portugal. No question. He’s had some injury problems, but he should still carry the team. He was mostly ineffective against Germany, and while some of that is due to his health, a lot of that is probably because Germany are one of the best teams in the world. Ronaldo doesn’t stay on the left. He will solidly make life miserable for everyone on the opponents’ defense.

-Warning: I often call Cristiano Ronaldo “CR7.” Why? because “Ronaldo” makes it sound like I’m talking about the Brazilian, “Cristiano” sounds like I know the guy, and I don’t want to say “Cristiano Ronaldo,” which has more syllables than World Cups Portugal has played in, ten times every paragraph.

-#8 Joao Moutinho is the playmaker. He’s the guy that runs the show from central midfield.

-Raul Meireles, #16 with the interesting beard, hair, and tattoos, is a box-to-box midfielder. He’s good at a lot of things, not really great at anything, but he’s a useful player both ways. Especially defensively.

-The other guy they play, probably #4 Miguel Veloso, will be the defensive midfielder. This will be the player who Michael Bradley will need to evade. They might play William Carvalho in this position.

-They’re normally especially good on the left side with the all-Real Madrid pairing of Fabio Coentrao and CR7. With Coentrao out for the tournament, it will be interesting to see how #19 Andre Almeida will do.

-Not only is Coentrao out, but their Real Madrid center-back Pepe is suspended due to a red card (typical Pepe stuff, nothing to see here). Half of their backline, and maybe their goalkeeper, will be new, so their teamwork will be vital.

-This Portugal team likes to attack down the wings, and they’re deadly on the counter. America’s weakness defensively seems to be down the wings, so they should change that. Also, they can’t send too many numbers forward. Even 75% CR7 can crush a team on the counter.

-Another thing: Portugal seem, to me anyways, like they can easily get frustrated. They don’t seem to have a good “team spirit,” shall we say. Cristiano Ronaldo is the captain, Pepe is the best defender, and that kind of tells you everything you need to know about the Portuguese team.

-So, they get frustrated easily and they’re great on the counter? Then the US should sit back and force Portugal to try and break them down.

How Will the US Play?

The team has normally played in a Squishy Diamond that is authoritatively called a 4-3-2-1, 4-4-2 diamond, 4-2-2-2, or a 4-2-3-1 depending on who it is. Yeah, it’s weird how everyone is so sure about what formation it is, yet they all say different things. But they’re all right. It’s all of those formations. It’s a Squishy Diamond. It morphs into these different formations as the game goes on, because it’s squishy. In the last game, against Ghana, we saw Michael Bradley drop back and make it a flat 4-4-2 at times.

I’ll get to the Altidore thing. Be patient. First, I’d like to discuss the simplest thing about how the US will play: the formation.

Will they stick with the Squishy Diamond? It retains the back four of Beasley-Besler-Cameron-Johnson, or their backups, with Beckerman in the calm defensive role, Jones in the DESTROYEVERYTHING!!! role, Bedoya/Zusi as the right winger, Bradley as the box-to-box playmaker, and then Dempsey and someone else at striker. I’ll show the formations, but first I’ll get to the other options. After that I’ll talk personnel.

Do they play a 4-2-3-1, with Dempsey as the lone striker, Bradley in a #10 role, and then two wingers? Behind them would be the back six (defenders + Jones and Beckerman) as per usual.

Here’s my idea: the Stretchy Diamond. I’ll display these formations in pictures before I tell you what that is:

Possible US vs. Portugal Formations
I took this one with my camera that I take bigfoot pictures with.

The Stretchy Diamond is like the diamond, except it’s stretched. It’s like a 4-4-2, with an attacking central midfielder, a defensive central midfielder, and defensive wingers. You can also call it a 4-3-1-2.

The most interesting thing is the personnel I’ve listed. I’ll get to that now.

The idea of my Stretchy Diamond is to close down the wings. Portugal attack through the wings. DaMarcus Beasley was isolated a lot against Ghana. What happens if Cristiano Ronaldo gets isolated against a US full-back? I’m not saying he’ll definitely score, but if it happens, say, 5 times, I doubt the scoreline won’t be affected.

So I have a defensive right winger. Sure, Bedoya and Zusi can defend well, but inserting someone who’s basically another full-back means that the real full-back won’t have many chances to mess up (lots of goals that the team have conceded have come off of errors from the full-backs–like Johnson’s error against Ghana). I also move over Jones as a defensive left-midfielder, as opposed to a left defensive-midfielder, if that makes any sense.

Fabian Johnson is a must-start because he’s good defensively and vital offensively. But he makes errors defensively. Now, again, I said he’s a must-start so don’t say that I hate him. I don’t. But he makes errors defensively. If there was basically a second full-back alongside him, then he wouldn’t be isolated.

You can do lots of things to create this formation:

-Add John Brooks to the starting line-up, pair him with Besler, move Geoff Cameron to right-back, and Johnson to right midfielder.

-Same as above, but with Omar Gonzalez at center-back. This keeps it lefty-righty, and we’ve seen Gonzalez’s best performances alongside Besler, but the very idea of Gonzalez starting gives me shivers, considering the fact that his club and more importantly national team form over the last several months has been bad. Like, open the windows bad.

-Add DeAndre Yedlin, the speedy yet inexperienced Seattle right-back, to right midfield.

-If you want to rest Jones or Beckerman, you can have the guy you aren’t resting at central defensive midfield, have Fabian Johnson at left-midfielder, insert Yedlin at right-midfield, move Cameron to right-back, and then doing either Besler-Brooks or (gulp) Besler-Gonzalez at centerback.

None of this will probably happen, though. So I’ll talk about real personnel decisions, going from back to front:

Besler, Brooks, or Both?

Matt Besler is considered the rock in the defense. Most people agree that if he’s healthy he plays. But, is he healthy? He came off at halftime vs. Ghana. He’ll be officially okay for the Portugal game, but I’m not convinced that he really will be able to play.

Keeping the team’s best defender on the bench might be made easier by John Brooks. In addition to scoring the goal, in the 90 minutes he’s played in the last 4 games he’s looked fairly solid. Not without errors, but a couple minor mistakes won’t cause as much damage as aggravating Besler’s injury and having to burn a sub after 10 minutes Costa-style would cause.

Could they do both? Playing them both would be either to rest Cameron, who was apparently sick for the Ghana game, or to move Cameron out to right-back, where he plays for Stoke. Moving Cameron to right-back would be either to rest Johnson, or to move Johnson to left-back (to rest Beasley) or to move Johnson to the midfield (to create a defensive formation similar to my Stretchy Diamond).

Why am I pretty sure that only one of them will start? Because Jürgen Klinsmann hasn’t played two center-backs with the same preferred foot since the second half vs. Mexico back in April. Besler and Brooks are both left-footed (Cameron and Gonzalez are both right-footed) so I doubt that either of them would play without a right-footed partner. I’m pretty sure that Klinsmann’s reasoning for that is so that they can take up the full-back positions if needed, so that the full-backs can go forward more.

Zusi, Bedoya, or…Davis?

If Klinsmann goes with the Squishy Diamond, only one of these guys will play, and it will be one of the right-sided ones, Zusi or Bedoya. If he only plays one striker in a 4-2-3-1, two of these guys will play.

Alejandro Bedoya has seemed to be the favorite on the right side, starting the last friendly (first game with the Squishy Diamond) and the game against Ghana. But Zusi has also seen a lot of time under Klinsmann, and with him getting the assist on the winner, plus Bedoya with seeming to be cramping up last game, I could certainly see the Nantes midfielder being rested in favor of the one from Sporting Kansas City.

In a 4-2-3-1, or in an attacking diamond, we could see Zusi on the right and Bedoya on the left, like what we saw against Azerbaijan, but then again we could also see Brad Davis. He’s a set piece and service master, and while he’s not that good athletically or speed-wise, he plays in Houston, which is probably the closest thing in the US, or at least in MLS, that you can get to Manaus.

There’s a lot to criticize about Brad Davis’s ability, which is magnified due to the omission of Landon Donovan, but they’re different players (Klinsmann was always going to call in a left-footed winger, Davis beat out Shea and Torres, not Donovan) and there’s also a lot to praise about Brad Davis, namely his magical left foot. Is that enough?

What about Mix?

The Norwegian-American Mix Diskerud, a fan favorite, is a quality player. He wears the number 10, and it’s accurate: he’s the closest thing Klinsmann has to a central midfield playmaker. He’s one of the few players on this team who can relatively-consistently play that magical pass; that ball sent in that takes several defenders out of the play and sets up a fairly easy chance to score.

He rarely starts, however, and for good reason. He isn’t the best defensively, so playing him behind two forwards would be poor unless it’s against a weak bus-parking team, and playing him any other way would require only one true striker.

Mix, to me, totally seems like someone who will come off the bench in the 60th minute, and break down the Portuguese defense. Have you heard that this game is being played in Manaus, in the Amazon Rainforest? Players will get very tired, and I think that giving the creative Diskerud 30 minutes at 100% to break down the tired Portuguese would be more effective than him spending the first 60 minutes tiring out with them.

Michael Bradley?

No question he starts, but how good will he be?

Bradley had a poor game against Ghana, at least in the attack, but I think that that fact makes it more likely that he’ll play great going forward. As I said in my last post, he’s gotten all his mistakes out of the way. Ballon d’Or performances from here on out, everyone.

How do you Replace Jozy Altidore?

You can’t. His hold up play is like no one else in the team.

Please don’t mention Landon Donovan. He can’t do hold-up play. Green’s role was the one that Donovan would’ve been in. But Terrence Boyd and Eddie Johnson are probably the 2nd and 3rd best players at Altidore’s role, and neither of them made the 23. EJ didn’t even make the 30.

So, does that mean that the US just plays with 10 against Portugal? No, of course not. There are three options, basically:

-Chris Wondolowski

Pros: this is the player I would choose. He can score goals. Pepe is out with a red card suspension, so Portugal will have an inexperienced center-back partnership. They will probably make mistakes. Wondo is the perfect player on this team to capitalize on mistakes.

Cons: I can’t think of many. Sure, he lacks physicality, but so does Jóhannsson. And sure, he lacks speed in comparison to Jóhannsson, but he isn’t slow. You can also say that Wondo doesn’t offer much outside of goal-scoring, but did you watch the Ghana game? Jóhannsson didn’t do all that great.

Yeah, every “con” has a qualifier. Can you blame me? I want Wondo to start.

-Aron Jóhannsson

Pros: he’s been scoring goals like crazy in the Eredivisie. He’s supposedly full of confidence. He’s young. He looks like Kevin Bacon.

Cons: he was non-existent against Ghana. And yeah, I know that he hadn’t warmed up, and that Bradley, the link between defense and offense, was poor in distribution, and that Ghana closed down on the US midfield, but still. Only 1 shot the entire game. Also, they don’t play defense in the Eredivisie. I doubt that he can play as the lone striker in the World Cup. He’s said himself that he prefers to play behind the main forward.

-Clint Dempsey as the #9 in a 4-2-3-1

Pros: moving Deuce from floating 9.5 up front allows for another midfielder. He’s the best goalscorer on the team. No arguments, he is.

Cons: I hate the idea of playing him central. I much prefer Dempsey as the second striker; floating around, combining with the midfield, getting into goalscoring positions by running in behind the main striker. And you can say “play him as a false 9” all day, but you need to be a possession team to play with a false 9. Let Deuce be Deuce and play Wondo up top.

Well, okay, I clearly have my mind made up. I’ll go all the way:

Play Wondo

Prediction

USA 3-2 Portugal.

22’ WONDO (Zusi)

43’ Ronaldo (Ronaldo)

62’ Ronaldo (Ronaldo)

73’ WONDO (Diskerud)

90’ Deuce (Diskerud)

 

That’s it. Any thoughts? Predictions? Questions? Threats? I’ll get back to regularly scheduled programming soon.

 

 

Power Rankings + USA-Ghana Poetry

If you’re only going to read one thing, make it the poetic review at the end. But my next section should not be ignored either:

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

Last ranking in brackets.

1(2)-Germany

This team is a soccer machine. They tore apart Portugal with efficiency. Only Germans can be that efficient. They have so many talented players that even with Marco Reus out injured, they were able to leave Klose, Podolski, Schürrle, and even Schweinsteiger (Schweini!) on the bench and still have a world class starting XI. You can make a team out of Germany’s bench and win the World Cup. But can they pull it off in Brazil? I’m not sure.

2(1)-Brazil

It didn’t take long for the host nation to drop their first points, and some will argue that they also didn’t deserve a win in the first game. They have 4 points, and they should still qualify out of their group with ease (Cameroon are the only team they have left to play–easy win…right?) but they haven’t looked dominant at all.

3(3)-Argentina

Against Bosnia (I’ll get to them) this team looked completely disjointed in attack. But Messi is a player who can change the game. Everyone talks about Neymar, and Cristiano Ronaldo has been the crème de la crème for the past year and a half, but Messi could very well prove why he’s the best at this World Cup. They have an easy draw to start, but Messi needs better help to win the World Cup.

They only started attacking well when Messi moved further back into the midfield in the second half allowing him to get on the ball. However, he then had further to go to get to the goal, which created enough time for Bosnia to close down on him, forcing him to pass to one of his teammates. It normally didn’t go well. Argentina need to get that star-studded attack working well.

4(4)-Italy

5(5)-Spain

6(6)-Netherlands

7(7)-Belgium

Nothing will come easy. At some point I will probably write an article talking more about Belgium (I would’ve wrote one for yesterday but I got a headache after the US game, and then the headache was made worse because I was upset because I had a headache), but for now, I want to leave it at this: you can’t become title-contenders in one cycle. Nothing comes easy.

8(8)-Colombia

9(9)-Chile

10(11)-Bosnia-H

Throughout the build-up and now during the actual tournament, I’ve heaped praise on the World Cup debutants. If Messi wasn’t playing, they probably would’ve won, or at least got a draw. Also, you must consider that their own goal was fluky. It counted, of course, but if that same game would’ve been played 20 times, it’s something that wouldn’t have happened more than once or twice. If Messi was Bosnian, it would’ve been 4-0. That’s how good Messi and all of Bosnia were compared to the rest of Argentina. They defended very well, and I have little doubt that they’ll handle Nigeria and Iran.

11(15)-France

Likely Round of 16 opponents for Bosnia, the French are in a great year. How do I know that? In 1994, France didn’t make the World Cup. In 1998, France won it. In 2002, they went out in the group stage. In 2006, they came excruciatingly close to winning it again. In 2010, they imploded. Based on the pattern of being horrific one tournament and excellent the next, this should be a good year for Les Blues.

12(12)-Uruguay

13(16)-Mexico

This Mexico team has proven that they are much better than the 2013 team. They will still probably need a result against Croatia to make it through, but a draw would cut it due to their impressive 0-0 draw vs. the mighty Brazil. Oh, and they should’ve beat Cameroon 3-0 instead of 1-0. This team has been very good so far.

14(13)-Croatia

15(18)-USA

There are still some issues, and Jozy Altidore’s injury is worrying, but this team does have quality, and most importantly an ability to get results.

16(14)-England

Yeah, I intentionally put the US right above England.

17(10)-Portugal

Man, they looked terrible. Half of their backline is gone (Pepe suspended for the next game, Coentrao out for the tournament with injury), their striker is gone (Hugo Almeida injured for the next game), and their star player (Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been struggling recently) was a non-factor against Germany. But then again, it was against Germany.

18(20)-Switzerland

The Swiss, I think, have a good chance to make it out of the Group of Life. Unless they mess up against Honduras, they should be able to afford a poor result in the next game against France, as long as the other teams also do so.

19(19)-Russia

They needed to pick up 3 points to have a sizable chance to win the group. They failed, but if they can hold on they can make it to the Round of 16.

20(21)-Ivory Coast

21(22)-Costa Rica

22(17)-Ghana

The Ghanaians are very one-dimensional in attack. They prefer to play on the counter. The US defended deep, not pressing too much in order to protect space in behind, so they forced Ghana to break them down. They couldn’t do it. Their next task is the team that just beat Portugal 4-0.

23(23)-Nigeria

They should’ve gotten more than a point against Iran, but I’ve already written them off anyway. Bosnia is a good team, and you’re either ignorant or Nigerian if you thought they weren’t favorites to join Argentina out of the group.

24(25)-Korea

The Koreans just got a point against the best team they’ll face in the group stage that doesn’t have Eden Hazard. They absolutely have a fairly good chance to make it out of the group stage.

25(24)-Ecuador

They got close, but they couldn’t last the whole game. They have a shot if they can get an upset against France, but it’s looking unlikely.

(26)-Greece

(27)-Japan

(28)-Cameroon

(29)-Honduras

As I said, France are good this year. Everyone will drop points against France. Honduras need to get points against Switzerland and Ecuador. Possible, but not at all easy.

(30)-Australia

(31)-Iran

(32)-Algeria

Maybe 32nd was harsh, but they couldn’t hold their lead. Again, I have no idea what I’m doing.

 

Remember, I said it was “Totally Inaccurate.” That wasn’t a joke at all.

USA-Ghana: Poetic Review

(Forgive me for it sounding bad. I don’t make poetry that often.)

The Black Stars were sloppy as the game was beginning.

But Dempsey was ready, and focused on winning.

In half a minute, the US were in control,

A third World Cup for Deuce with scoring a goal.

Ghana looked nervous, and frantic as well.

Their World Cup’s start wasn’t too swell.

While the US wasn’t good in possession,

Ghana couldn’t rule the game with oppression.

They tried and tried, but failed to break them down.

Every Black Star attack ended with frowns.

Altidore hurt, and then Besler, too.

Is it over-training that Klinsmann should rue?

Fiftieth, sixtieth, seventieth minute.

America looked quite like they would win it.

But with a moment of brilliance, the lead was gone.

Andre Ayew the goal, assisted by Gyan.

It was tied up, and it looked without hope.

“We’re still in in the game!” says the US coach.

Fabian Johnson won a nice corner kick.

The US with a chance, but the clock moving quick.

Here comes the sub, Graham Zusi to take it.

Brooks with the header, trying to make it.

And then in a moment not to forget,

The ball went into the back of the net!

“GOAL!” they all shouted, jumping up and down.

Brooks, stunned, just fell to the ground.

Relief, excitement, and much jubilation,

To everyone all across the nation.

Next up is Manaus, with many piranhas.

But for now, it’s the joy of beating Ghana.

 

That’s it! Stay tuned for more later on. I’ll be here for the whole World Cup and beyond. Annoy everyone you kind-of know with emails about my blog. The more people reading this the more motivated I am to do better.

World Cup 2014: Part 7: Mexico-Portugal As It Happened

Patriots Stadium in Wherever, Massachusetts. Mexico. CR7-less Portugal. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

L-Tree Lineup: Jesus Corona; Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Rafa Marquez, Maza Rodriguez, Paul Aguilar; Andres Guardado, Jose Juan Vazquez, Hector Herrera; Gio Dos Santos, Oribe “El Cepillo” (The Brush) Peralta

Corona’s healthy. So is 65-year-old Rafa Marquez. Gio-Brush up top.

They misspelled Hector Moreno’s name as “Morena,” confusing considering how their color commentator’s name is Alejandro Moreno.

WENEEDRONALDOHEALTHY!!!!! FC Lineup: Eduardo; Fabio Coentrao, Bruno Alves, Luis Neto, Joao Pereira; Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Vieirinha, Nani; Andre Almeida, Eder

Andre Almeida is apparently listed as a defender, but he’s playing as a forward, according to their map. What? Do they really mean Hugo Almeida? Probably not. Let’s see.

As I’ve mentioned before, Cristiano Ronaldo is injured; so is his club teammate Pepe and former Chelsea player Raul Meireles.

1’ – The game has begun.

5’ – I just realized that it’s the fifth minute and I haven’t given any updates. It’s still scoreless. I’m trying to find out how Portugal are playing. Fabio Coentrao is playing as a central midfielder, and it’s freaking me out.

7’ – Nifty long pass into space for Layun, although his cross doesn’t do much good. Having the ability to find those smart long passes into space is very useful to unlock defenses. Not just booting it up-field, but finding an unmarked runner.

10’ – Andre Almeida is playing as the left-back, and Coentrao as a central midfielder in a 4-3-3. They recently went on an attack where Nani, at left-mid, neatly flicked it on to Almeida.

Tactical Map
Tacky Formations Map. It’s legible if you 1) squint and 2) use your imagination. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it until it isn’t true: I’m not making money from this, so you can’t expect too much.

11’ – They just mentioned that the Portuguese are surprised that Giovani Dos Santos isn’t considered one of Mexico’s best by the Mexican media. So, wait, does that mean that Gio is the Mexican Chris Wondolowski? With Wondo, his play outdoes his reputation, while Gio is the other way around.

14’ – Vieirinha just cut in past Miguel Layun and got a shot on target. Portugal is playing quite interesting, tactically.

15’ – Paul Aguilar received the ball down the right, and he sends in a dangerous cross, TACKLE! Luis Neto! Peralta is apparently offside, but that was a nice cross, and an even better tackle.

20’ – Eder with the header, after the cross by left-back Almeida. Again, not sure why they listed Andre Almeida as a forward. Eder is playing as the lone striker.

21’ – Still scoreless, but not for a lack of trying. Mexico with another cross cleared by Portugal.

22’ – Coentrao passes to Almeida, runs into space, gets the return ball, sends in a through ball to Eder, WHO SHOOTS! SAVE! Very good build-up play, and a very good save by Corona.

23’ – Moutinho with a long through-ball to Eder, but the goalkeeper comes out and clears it.

24’ – Hector Moreno should sign with an NFL team. Great tackle to bring down Moutinho. Foul.

24’ – Nani free kick, it’s Corona’s ball.

27’ – I think that against Cameroon, Mexico should try to possess, with Gio in behind the striker play-making (similar role to Clint Dempsey for the US or perhaps Wayne Rooney for England) and then against Brazil play a “Please don’t hurt us!” 5-3-0-2, with 3 D-mids in front of the defenders. Against Croatia? Figure that out based on prior games and what result is needed.

31’ – DID THAT ALMOST SCORE!?!?!?! MIGUAL LAYUN!!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM?!? WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD SHOOT FROM THAT FAR OUT?!?

32’ – Or was it a cross? I don’t know. But Miguel Layun certainly does have that club in his bag. The WHATDIDHEJUSTDO?!? club, that is.

38’ – Nice turn by Eder, but the shot goes wide. Portugal have had several good attacks, but they’ve failed to score.

39’ – Joao Pereira with the cross, Eder wins the header (I love rhyming “Eder” with “header”), but it goes wide. He’s been active, but he hasn’t scored. That will be looked at as either “promising” or “frustrating,” depending on the result and/or how he does.

43’ – Guardado! Just misses! Poor clearance by Bruno Alves but the Mexican misses the shot.

44’ – Portugal seem to be better than Mexico when they want to be. It’s been pretty back-and-forth, but Mexico have gotten caught out. They’ve shown a replay where wing-back Miguel Layun tucks in to cover the winger, but then the full-back overlaps so that a center-back needs to emergency defend the problem away. This is a disadvantage of the 5-3-2: you’re oftentimes outnumbered 2-to-1 on the wings, so an overlapping full-back is lethal. Brazil, in Mexico’s group, have a couple overlapping full-backs in Dani Alves (Layun’s side) and Marcelo (Aguilar’s side).

45+1’ – End of the first half.

46’ – Second half to commence. Keeper swap for Mexico. On comes Guillermo Ochoa for Jesús Corona.

46’ – Cameroon, you see, is a must-win for El Tri. If they only pick up one or zero points against what I think is the weakest team in their group, they’ll need to either get a result against Brazil, and/or beat Croatia. They kind of need to beat Croatia anyways, but it becomes super-necessary if they can’t beat Cameroon–if Cameroon gets a result against Mexico and Mandzukic-less Croatia gets a result against Brazil, it’s already desperation mode for Mexico.

48’ – Insane attack by Mexico. Several half-chances, all eventually wasted. You know, very few times have they gotten the ball to their striker, Oribe Peralta, in the box. That’s how they’ll score, and in their group they have a team slightly worse than Portugal (Croatia) and a team considerably better than Portugal (Brazil), and even if they get out of their group they’ll need to face another team considerably better than Portugal (Spain, or whoever beats Spain).

51’ – Nifty turn by Herrera followed shortly by a Gio nutmeg.

55’ – Whoa, I just spaced out there. Andres Guardado almost scored, Hector Herrera is good, the score is still 0-0, Cristiano is still injured, disco is still dead, and I still like pizza.

56’ – That was hard-hitting analysis by me. Are you reading this, ESPN?

58’ – Chicharito is coming on for Giovani Dos Santos. Let’s see if he can get confidence, and we’ll also see how Mexico can do with two pure strikers. Silvestre Varela just came on for Vieirinha as well. How will this change Portugal’s attack? Looks like Nani is now on the right, with Varela on the left.

61’ – Wonderful job by Chicharito. I’m telling you, at his best he’s one of the best players in CONCACAF. Nice run, skillful hold-up-type-play, nice cross to Herrera, but the shot is saved. Both of these players will probably have to play well if Mexico is going to advance, along with Peralta and Dos Santos and, well, several others.

64’ – Helder Postiga comes on for Eder. Different dimension to the Portuguese attack brought by the veteran.

65’ – Honest question: are all the Portuguese fans really Portuguese? Or are some of them just Cristiano Ronaldo fans? I know that there are a lot of Portuguese people in the Boston area, but you can’t fill a suburban NFL stadium without at least some bandwagoners, right?

74’ – Foul on Miguel Layun, just on the line of the penalty box. I’m not sure if that’s a PK or not, but it’s called as a free kick just outside the line.

75’ – Rafa Marquez to take, deflected, Herrera, TO SPACE!!

76’ – Coentrao comes off for 21-year-old Rafa Silva.

78’ – Alan Pulido, who scored a hat-trick in his first ever international game, comes on for Oribe Peralta, while Marco Fabian comes on for Andres Guardado.

80’ – Joao Pereira comes off for Ruben Amorim.

83’ – As I’ve said, the young Hector Herrera has been good, but he stupidly gave away the ball, and was forced to commit a foul at the expense of a yellow card and a dangerous free kick.

86’ – Here comes Javier Aquino for Hector Herrera.

87’ – Nifty work by Nani, but the cross only finds Ochoa.

89’ – Wonderful pass by Aquino to Chicharito, and the Manchester United striker does a good job to set up Aquino, who is muffled by Eduardo. Chicharito has done quite well, I think. He should definitely be starting, even if it means that Dos Santos or even Peralta have to fall to the bench.

90+2’ – I read “H. Postiga” on the back of Helder Postiga’s shirt, and I thought it said “Hipster.” It’s getting late.

90+3’ – Free kick by Joao Moutinho, Maza Rodriguez loses Bruno Alves, WHO WINS THE HEADER, GOOOOOOOOAAAALLL!!!!! BRUNO ALVES!!!! CR7-LESS PORTUGAAAAAAAAALLLL!!!!!!!

90+4’ – There’s the final whistle. Only one goal, but there were tons of chances for both teams.

Final score: 1-0 to Portugal.

A few takeaways:

-Oribe Peralta didn’t get a shot off.

This is not good for Mexico. They need their strikers getting the ball in dangerous areas. It feels very 2013-ish from Mexico.

-Portugal are not as good without Cristiano Ronaldo.

-I know a lot more about El Tri than I thought.

If you multiply people’s knowledge of the Mexican National team with how white they are, I’d be #2 in the world behind Miguel Layun.

USA-Nigeria preview and then review to come. And then I’ll do more World Cup coverage for the next month, right here on DSE.

Any thoughts about the Mexico-Portugal game? That’s what the comments section is for, everyone.