It's emergency time for Portugal when they take on the USA in a critical Group G game. Defeat will condemn Cristiano Ronaldo and his experienced teammates to early elimination from the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
That's the price they'll pay for their 4-0 humbling at the hands of Germany. By contrast, USA began their tournament in thrilling fashion, securing a last-gasp win over a rugged Ghana squad.
Jurgen Klinsmann's team were resilient and determined against the Black Stars, while still showing credible fluency going forward. The squad certainly has the attributes to book a surprise passage to the knockout phase.
Here's some last-minute stream information, followed by a preview focusing on three key players.
|TV and Stream Information for U.S.A. vs. Portugal|
|Sunday, June 22||11 p.m. (BST) / 6 p.m. (ET)||BBC One / ESPN||BBC iPlayer / WatchESPN|
|Telegraph and USASoccerPlayers.com|
The outcome of the matchup likely hinges on a key midfield battle. Both teams can rely on plenty of industry and guile in the middle, although Portugal certainly boast more defence-stretching pace—particularly from wide areas.
Success on the flanks will continue to be their best route to goal, as long as Nani is counted on to provide some flair to complement Ronaldo's athletic power.
Klinsmann needs a strategy to protect his defenders from becoming isolated against either winger. If that happens, Portugal will stage a recovery from their opening match humiliation.
Here are the three key players who will decide this critical fixture.
The Manchester United misfit is capable of moments of dazzling individual brilliance. Sadly, those moments are rare enough to be considered an endangered species.
Nani has never delivered on his obvious talent. However, Ronaldo aside, the 27-year-old is perhaps the only other potential match-winner in this squad.
The Real Madrid man will start, despite a recent injury, per The Guardian. With Ronaldo less than fully fit, the pressure will be on Nani to be at his best.
Writing for The Observer, Vitor Alvarenga described the expectation surrounding this frustratingly unfulfilled talent:
That is what the Portuguese expect from Nani, the would-be king from Cape Verde. The magic is there for everyone to see, just waiting to be unleashed, but it just does not happen often enough. Portuguese fans and experts know that Nani always tries his hardest for the national team and there is an acceptance that he is doing his best in what is, apart from Ronaldo, not the best generation of talent the country has ever seen.
Nani must take the chance to shine. His quick bursts of skill and trickery have the potential to tie U.S. defenders in knots.
But Nani can be really dangerous if he expands his movement. The Red Devils winger must ghost off the flank through the middle more often than he normally does.
With Ronaldo naturally garnering the lion's share of attention, there will be space for Nani to exploit. But he has to want to do it.
Michael Bradley, USA
He wasn't anywhere close to his best against Ghana, but Michael Bradley will still be the key figure for his nation's hopes of qualification. The cerebral pass master is vital to keeping Klinsmann's team on the ball.
Sadly, Bradley's accuracy deserted him against the Black Stars, as Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl noted: "Michael Bradley, too, had an uncharacteristically tough game, appearing to measure his passes too much, which led to multiple giveaways."
Klinsmann's group has become more proficient recycling possession in recent years, with Bradley playing a vital role in that process. The key to getting him back to his best could be pushing the FC Toronto schemer further forward.
That's where he can link up with ageing forward Clint Dempsey and give the U.S. a greater attacking threat. The team relied on a stubborn rearguard action to frustrate Ghana, but that is a dangerous game to play against Portugal. Bradley must be given more forward responsibility.
Joao Moutinho, Portugal
Of course, Bradley will only dominate if he and his teammates can separate Joao Moutinho from the ball. Portugal's own playmaker is a masterfully sly creator.
Moutinho is the chief source of supply for fleet-footed attackers such as Nani and Ronaldo. What he has is a natural instinct for anticipating pacey movement ahead of him.
Moutinho won't waste possession and is patient enough to bide his time for the chance to split defensive gaps. The more time Moutinho is allowed on the ball, the greater the danger to Klinsmann's defence.
A deciding factor in this game will be the mood in the Portugal camp following their dismantling by Germany. That was a humbling experience that will either bring out the best or worst in the veteran group.
Manager Paulo Bento had better hope it's the former because the U.S are buoyant after their heroics against Ghana. Portugal's desperation will push American confidence to the breaking point.
Expect a battling draw between these two.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!