Blogs

Jack: Ronaldo stomps on the Americans' ticket to the last 16

Kristian Jack
6/22/2014 10:41:32 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

Day 11 in 100 words or less

We must remember that people are seeing a World Cup for the first time, just don't tell them it isn't always like this. Many of those eyes are in the United States of America, a country that the sport has wanted on its side for some time. On Sunday the football Gods delivered once again, only this time it was time for good old USA to experience as much heartache as joy. 

Portugal 2-2 USA

Football is a funny old game. Last week the USA struggled to keep the ball, were not at their best, and still won. This time they treasured the ball far better, were absolutely outstanding, and didn't win.

This World Cup has been an absolute blockbuster and some of its main characters have been counter-attacks, comebacks, headers, and substitute goals.

All four starred together in an incredible last scene in Manaus.

Portugal were on the ground, seemingly knocked out in Brazil, flat out on their back with the referee standing over them about to wave his arms and end their misery.

They knew they were out of the fight. Angry, petulant, disappointed they were a wounded bunch. Then, like a boxer swinging one last right hook at an opponent just for the sake of it, they delivered a stunning final moment to another monumental match in Brazil. 

The clock read 94:25. Michael Bradley picks up the ball and has no outlets to pass the ball to. Eder, the Portugal striker who came on early in the first half finally did something valuable by making a crucial tackle.

94:28 - Nani counters with pace, looks up and sees Cristiano Ronaldo on the right side. It was the first time the talisman was in that zone where he could put a pass in.


(stats powered by Opta')

94:31 - Ronaldo had just enough time to take one touch, look down at the ball, look up and deliver an absolutely incredible cross.

94:33 - Silvestre Varela then runs into the box and delivers a powerful header into the mix.

The USA victory and place in the last 16? Gone in eight seconds.

It was a fitting dramatic finale to an enthralling game in the Amazon. It will be remembered for the final scoreline, the Ronaldo pass, and the USA comeback, but we shouldn't forget about the tempo. The game was stretched throughout, played at an incredible pace in exhausting conditions.

Watching it we learned many things. We learned that Portugal have very little depth. Anyone who has followed this small, yet proud football nation would tell you they already knew that but this exposed it even deeper. 

Anyone who criticizes Ronaldo's performance would be best served to look at what he had to work with. They lost Helder Postiga early, threw on Eder and effectively played with 10 men for the second successive match. The sight of the world's finest player having to play up front in the second half and get absolutely no service was an all too familiar one. A sad tale of what could have been.

Nani scored a goal but was very disappointing the rest of the way, giving the ball away far too much. Joao Moutinho is a special player but his sparring partners, Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles are not at the form of Euro 2012. 

They've been hammered by injuries, admittedly, but this was one of the worst showings by a Portugal team in two decades. Last week they could blame Pepe and a brilliant German attack. On Sunday their excuses ran out and they will likely fly home on Friday as another European team humbled in Brazil. 

Jurgen Klinsmann's team were by far the better side and will be happy to be on four points through two games but it is far from 'job done'. Indeed, it could turn out to be 'what might have been'.

Sure, Jurgen's new mates and old mates can kick a ball around for 90 minutes in Recife on Thursday and both go through but anyone who thinks Germany would agree to that are kidding themselves. 

Germany are in Brazil to win the World Cup, not risk playing a close game with an inferior country, where a bad bounce or poor decision could end up costing them the chance to progress or, even, win the group. 

If the game is even as it enters the final 25 minutes I could see the two teams defending deep and giving up very little but until then I expect Germany to use the game as an opportunity to get back the tempo and attacking guile that was missing against Ghana.  

Belgium 1-0 Russia

The 2014 World Cup has been billed by some as the greatest ever but then Fabio Capello arrived in a time machine from 2010 to remind us just how easy a game can be killed off.

It almost worked.

To be fair, the dullest game of the tournament so far was not all Russia's doing. An average Belgium defended deep and rarely got playmaker Eden Hazard into the game, looking to settle for a point they know would have helped them win the group.

The schedule makers also played a small part in the snoozefest. Every team in this World Cup, Mexico vs Brazil aside, had four or five games off in between group games but all the teams who played on Sunday play again on Thursday, giving them just three days off before a crucial group finale.

Thankfully, Belgium decided to find some extra gears in the last ten minutes and for the second successive match their changes made a difference. Substitute Kevin Mirallas got the best out of Hazard and the two combined on the goal, scored by another sub, 19-year-old striker Divock Origi. The extra gear found by Belgium showed, again, they can reach another level when required and also left Russia embarrassed that they couldn't.

Russia were organized and clearly had a game plan that almost worked and it is hard to be too critical of that based on that game but the bigger question mark over this team's methods is do they have it in them at all to play a more open, expansive style that will be needed against Algeria to progress? This World Cup has made a mockery of players and coaches who have tried to play like it was 2010.

Capello gets one last shot to prove otherwise, against Algeria. How did that work out for him in 2010?

South Korea 2-4 Algeria Missed by many, this was a fantastic game. Algeria are a real threat to Russia. They are strong in attack, have a fine, technical leader in Sofiane Feghouli who can glide by midfielders and can score. Admittedly, South Korea's defending in the first half was woeful but Vahid Halilhodzic's side deserve tremendous credit for sensing their opportunity to finish the game off early. It has been a good couple of days for African football. 

Man of the day

Nominees....

Vincent Kompany - on a day where most of his teammates were average, the Manchester City skipper was fantastic in the middle of the Belgian defence.

Islam Slimani - he got his first start at the World Cup and it won't be his last after he tormented the South Korean backline.

Clint Dempsey - talk about a big game player. Not blessed with any one outstanding trait, he just seems to pop up in big moments. 

Jermaine Jones - After a brilliant display on the left of a midfield diamond against Ghana, he was asked to come more centrally this time and had a superb match. 

Cristiano Ronaldo - he was far from his best but, just like Lionel Messi on Saturday, he had his moment. 

Winner

Cristiano Ronaldo - a defensive liability in the first half, clearly not fit, playing with a bunch of average players, sulking and then he does that. Wow. 

What's next 

Australia vs Spain & Chile vs Netherlands (12pm/9am)

Croatia vs Mexico & Brazil vs Cameroon (4pm/1pm)

Burning question for Monday's games

Can Chile win the group and finally carve open a path to the late rounds that doesn't include nemesis Brazil?

Stat of day 11 Silvestre Varela became the 16th substitute to score at this World Cup.



Cabbie on TSN.ca

Check out Cabbie's unique take on sports broadcasting and interviewing, poking fun at sports headlines, high-profile athletes and sports personalities. More...


Caeli McKay is a 15-year-old diver who is piling up the medals at the nationals, and she's getting ready to take make a splash at World's in September. More...

© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television