4 Things Portugal Must Change Following Draw with USA

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

4 Things Portugal Must Change Following Draw with USA

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    The dramatic finale to Sunday night's match saw Silvestre Varela give Portugal a World Cup lifeline.

    The winger's header following an exquisite cross from Cristiano Ronaldo means that Portugal are still in the competition, but only just.

    They now have to beat Ghana in their final group game and hope that the encounter between Germany and USA produces a winner.

    It's out of Portugal's hands. They are relying on one team to take the initiative and aim to top the group.

    Despite this, Paulo Bento needs to get a performance out of his side to give them a fighting chance.

    Here are four things he should change for the meeting with Ghana. 

Move to 3 at the Back

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    Portugal have now conceded six goals in two matches and have looked shaky throughout the tournament.

    There were certainly some signs of recovery against the USA, with La Liga-based duo Beto and Ricardo Costa offering some resistance.

    With Pepe now free from suspension, the obvious choice to make would be to drop Bruno Alves and bring the Real Madrid defender back into the fold.

    However, without a natural left-back in the squad—following injuries to Fabio Coentrao and Andre Almeida—it might be best to play three in defence with a midfielder as a wing-back.

    Miguel Veloso played the role in the second half, although Raul Meireles did cover at times when the Dynamo Kyiv man ventured forward.

    The USA continually isolated Portugal's left channel as a position of weakness, and Veloso would be less exposed if given less defensive responsibility. 

Flip the Midfield Triangle

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    Bento's preferred midfield three of Veloso, Meireles and Joao Moutinho makes sense on paper.

    Veloso offers a shield in front of the defence, Meireles shuttles up and down the pitch, whilst Moutinho provides the creativity linking the defence with attack.

    However, it hasn't worked effectively in the last two matches, with part of the reason due to the midfield needing to cover for other issues within the team.

    Two midfielders sitting would provide Moutinho greater freedom to find space between the lines. It would also mean that Portugal would get caught less in transition. 

Opt for Youth over Experience

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    William Carvalho's cameo appearance in the final 45 minutes against the USA was extraordinary and showed Bento what he's been missing in the 135 minutes prior.

    The highly rated 22-year-old was the most accomplished player on the pitch and showed few nerves in his biggest occasion to date.

    William is the second youngest player in the squad, yet he displayed the composure that's been lacking in his more experienced teammates.

    It would also be nice to see Braga's Rafa at some stage, even if it's not straight from the start. 

Place Ronaldo and Nani Upfront

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's fitness and defensive discipline almost cost Portugal as the team's left-hand side was forced to deal with the marauding Fabian Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya.

    With that being said, in an attacking sense, there was still a lot of accountability at Ronaldo's feet.

    "We have one of the best players in the world, but there are others to support him," said Bento to the press before the USA match, according to Mark Ogden of The Telegraph. "When I took the job I said I'd never put the responsibility for solving problems on his shoulders or those of any other player."

    The second-half switch to something resembling a 4-4-2 gave Ronaldo licence to drift across the front line and take up awkward positions.

    With Eder and Ronaldo not particularly looking like an effective partnership, it would pay Bento to use his wide men as forwards in a similar fashion to Chile.

    Nani was his usual inconsistent self, despite hitting the woodwork and opening the scoring, but this greater onus could be the making of him.