The United States did everything right to pull out the three points against Portugal in Manaus on Sunday, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani had something to say about that.
Nani scored in the fifth minute, and after 94 minutes of ineffectiveness, Ronaldo broke through with a clutch cross to substitute Silvestre Varela to lead Portugal to a late comeback and a 2-2 draw.
Often overlooked thanks to the aurora of Ronaldo—and in part because of his own bad form as of late—Nani didn't have to shine the spotlight on himself Sunday. Geoff Cameron did it for him.
The American defender's gaffe in the box came straight to Nani in the fifth minute of the match, and he fired it right over goalkeeper Tim Howard to give Portugal a 1-0 lead.
ESPN FC captured the highlight:
WhoScored.com noted it broke quite a long drought for the Portuguese winger:
Gary Lineker wasted no time poking fun at the moment:
Among others enjoying themselves over Nani's gift-wrapped goal was CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello:
But even though Nani proved to be clutch in the early minute by giving Portugal a 1-0 lead they would hold up until midway through the second half, Ronaldo is the real star for the Portuguese side, and Twitter reacted accordingly.
One U.S. fan sported an entertaining sign, per BuzzFeed Sports:
Portugal leading early seemed to play right into Ronaldo's hands, as it gave him more room on the counter-attack, but he's been dealing with a muscle injury that has plagued him over the past few months.
ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan thought that put Portugal at a disadvantage:
He proved to be right. Ronaldo was a shell of himself for much of the contest, skying chances way over the goal and failing to get real separation from USA defenders.
Bleacher Report's Will Carroll noticed Ronaldo's knee troubles impact him during a free kick:
Rotoworld's Patrick Daugherty had a more lighthearted reaction to Ronaldo's free kick, as he blasted it into the stands:
As the match wore on, the United States equalized off of a beautiful strike from Jermaine Jones. Pressure mounted more and more on Ronaldo, and he continued to fold.
USA Today's Mike Foss noticed how the crowd reaction took a 180:
Despite his poor performance, his skill was on show numerous times throughout, as Bleacher Report UK captured:
While the Americans kept pushing, Portugal were searching desperately for anything to put them in front. Late in the match, Nani baited a USA defender into the penalty area and sold the contact a little much.
The Big Lead's Tyler Duffy thought it was a signature Nani move:
The pressure only grew for Portugal when Clint Dempsey scored in the 81st minute to put the Americans in front, 2-1.
America had the fourth-ranked team in the FIFA rankings on the ropes, and arguably the world's best player was kept under wraps through 94 minutes.
Then, with the final kick of the game, he made his mark.
Ronaldo broke down the right side and beat out the American defenders with a perfect cross to the far post that Varela finished, as The Score illustrated:
There was no doubt to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch—it was a world-class play:
Even American sports notables chimed in on Ronaldo's play, including Tampa Bay Rays star Evan Longoria:
Among those enamored with Ronaldo's cross was ESPN's Jason Whitlock:
After the cross, Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post noticed an eerie similarity between Ronaldo's haircut and the game-tying play:
It was a rare showing of unselfishness from Ronaldo in providing the game-tying goal, as Anup Kaphle of the Washington Post noted:
Ronaldo was more successful with crosses than the U.S. were as a unit, ESPN Stats & Information uncovered:
Playing in the intense environment of Manaus, Ronaldo decided to troll us all by wearing long sleeves, as ESPN's Pablo S. Torre observed:
Ronaldo may have ripped the knockout stage right from the Americans' grasp, but despite the world-class play, NFL Network's Dan Hellie was shedding light on the situation:
Even after saving the day and keeping Portugal alive, Ronaldo still didn't have the most inspiring performance. That had USA Today's Sean Highkin counting the positives for the Real Madrid star:
It was a shaky performance from Portugal, to say the least. After going up early and taking advantage of a U.S. defensive mistake, they were sorely outplayed by the Americans for much of the 90 minutes.
But having Ronaldo on your side works wonders, and Portugal learned that lesson on Sunday. Less than a minute away from being eliminated from Group G contention, Ronaldo found an opening and got his side a valuable point.
Failing to win, however, means that Portugal's livelihood in Brazil comes down to one final match between them and Ghana. If they are able to pull out the three points there, they have a chance of catching either the U.S. or Germany in points and advancing to the knockout stage.
Follow Steven Cook on Twitter.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!