Good evening, grapple fans. If you’re a fan of the United States of America national team, you could be forgiven a pang of deja vu about this evening’s match. The USA opened their 2002 World Cup campaign against Portugal, and their performance in a 3-2 win in that match reinvented many perceptions of America’s place in the football world. Moreover, there were parallels between the Portugal of 2012 and the Portugal of 2014, as well – a team with many desirable pieces that never quite seemed to be assembled in quite the way that they might have been, a team which never quite fulfilled as much as it promised.

Fast forward to 2014, and these two nations are now into their second match of the competition, with castly differing results so far. The USA finally got their revenge over Ghana for elimination in 2006 and 2010 thanks to a late goal in their opening match, but Portugal have a lot of work to do after having lost by four goals to nil against Germany in their opening match. Can the USA get the win that will guarantee them a place in the Second Round of the competition? Will Cristiano Ronaldo end this evening pulling his happy face or his sad face? Find out from eleven o’clock this evening (BST) with Ian King and Rob Freeman. Until then, here’s the teams:

USA: Howard, Bradley, Besler, Beasley, Dempsey (c), Bedoya, Jones, Beckerman, Zusi, Cameron, Johnson.

Portugal: Beto, Bruno Alves, Veloso, Ronaldo (c), Moutinho, Costa, Meireles, Nani, A. Almeida, Pereira, Postiga.

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Mark June 23, 20141:01 am

Bradley made so, SO many mistakes in the last ten minutes. I suppose you don’t sub your most experienced player, but I screamed “get ‘im off” more than once.
The one good thing about this is that Ghana still have a chance.
Cracking game, though.

Rob June 23, 201412:57 am

Although if Germany and the USA now draw, as Mark said earlier, both qualify with five points.

Ian June 23, 201412:55 am

Jesus. Five minutes into stoppage time and Portugal level. Ronaldo’s cross and Varela heads past Howard from close range.

And with that, it’s full-time. USA 2-2 Portugal. This group is too close to call with the final round of matches left to play, considering who is playing who.

Ian June 23, 201412:48 am

I’ve been wrong about a lot of things over the course of these finals, but I’ve been right about how much fun the USA are to watch. Their matches really feel like An Event.

Rob June 23, 201412:46 am

But the only way Ghana could qualify here is for Germany to lose, Ghana to win, and there be a five goal swing in the process.

Mark June 23, 201412:43 am

Pictures over Klinsmann and German boss Low all over social media, noting that Germany and the US need to draw from their game to both qualify…if things stay like this. Its a cynical world in which we live…

Rob June 23, 201412:42 am

And Clint Dempsey tilts the game in favour of the US of A. Bradley’s shot is deflected into the path of Zusi, whose shot is deflected into the net by Dempsey’s stomach.

Ian June 23, 201412:41 am

Bloody hell. Clint Dempsey gives the USA the lead with his… abdomen, I think. Looked offside on first viewing but the replay confirmed that it wasn’t.

Mark June 23, 201412:41 am

Lawrenson: “I’m not biased, I just want the US to win.” Er…

Mark June 23, 201412:39 am


Mark June 23, 201412:39 am

The conditions may not be affecting America, so we were told, but they’re knackered

Ian June 23, 201412:34 am

I don’t even know what the consensus is on diving nowadays. Is it acceptable now? Doesn’t seem to be a yellow card offence any more.

(Nani tumbles in the US penalty area)

Mark June 23, 201412:29 am

I meant the BBC’s, Rob.
BTW: What does Nani have to do to be booked? Or did I miss it?
PS: “If Eder plays for Braga, so can I…”

Rob June 23, 201412:27 am

Not *all* the analysis of the USA’s tactics has been crap, Mark. I myself highlighted their “shoot from outside the box” tactic in the first half.

Ian June 23, 201412:26 am

So, lets take a look at that again, shall we:

Mark June 23, 201412:24 am

Shows how totally crap the analysis of America’s tactics has been – Friedel apart, who has been excellent, if particularly…er…focusing his criticism on Tim Howard. And no MORE than the US deserve. That WAS what you meant, wasn’t it Ian?

Ian June 23, 201412:23 am

Holy shit, what a strike! The ball bounces out of the penalty area and, WELL, Jermaine Jones curled the ball around the defenders and into the corner from twenty yards out. One-all, and no less than the USA deserve.

Rob June 23, 201412:22 am

And Jermaine Jones equalises for the United States. An absolute beauty from around 20 yards out, bending round the keeper.

Rob June 23, 201412:21 am

As Cristiano Ronaldo shoots high and wide again, Mark Lawrenson says how unRonaldo it is,

Ian June 23, 201412:20 am

Ha ha ha ha ha, Ronaldo was never, ever, ever, in a million years going to pass that ball to anybody else.

Ian June 23, 201412:19 am

Think I’ve just recovered from being reminded that Helder Postiga still plays for Portugal.

Rob June 23, 201412:19 am

Geoff Cameron showing the world what he’s learned at the Britannia Stadium, there.

Ian June 23, 201412:17 am

I note that you’ve stopped asterisking your “fucks”, Mark. About time, too. If you’re going to swear, go all in, I reckon.

Except, maybe, for the “see you next Tuesday” word.

Ian June 23, 201412:15 am

What a block! Johnson breaks on the right hand side and draws Beto out, before dragging the ball back to Bradley, whose shot is stopped on the line by Costa.

Rob June 23, 201412:14 am

Michael Bradley now has a chance cleared off the line.

Ian June 23, 201412:10 am

So, we’re under way in the second half, and Cameron makes another slip, this time granting the ball to Eder, whose shot flies a couple of feet over. As the very esteemed Richard Whittall mentioned on Twitter:

Ian June 23, 201412:00 am

Very impressed by Brad Friedel’s half-time analysis. Not afraid to be critical (especially of Tim Howard), but this is only a good thing, if it’s constructive.

Mark June 22, 201411:56 pm

Yippee. Roy Hodgson. Click.

Mark June 22, 201411:54 pm

Hansen can fuck off. Just fuck off. This has been quite a good game, hasn’t it? Mistakes, yes. But chances and watchable stuff. Or should I just fuck off?

Rob June 22, 201411:49 pm

CR7’s right side is definitely his best side, as he looks like Dean Gaffney from his left side.

Mark June 22, 201411:48 pm

Nice to see CR7 smiling after his dive. Be nicer to see him wink, of course…what?…oh…

Ian June 22, 201411:48 pm

Well, well, well. One-nil to Portugal, but I don’t think that this is over by a long way, yet. America dominated for much of the half, before Portugal came on strongly in the last five minutes. This match could yet catch fire.

Rob June 22, 201411:47 pm

Eder is probably still wondering how his shot didn’t go in. So am I.

Ian June 22, 201411:45 pm

Yowser. Brilliant save from Howard after Portugal’s first shot smacks out off the post.

Rob June 22, 201411:45 pm

Oh, what a save by Tim Howard.

Mark June 22, 201411:45 pm

****, I’m agreeing with Lawrenson again.

Mark June 22, 201411:44 pm

Free-kick. Familiar look on Ronaldo’s face. Will it be a familiar outcome? Ten yards over. So. Yes. Should eventually score some though, with the wall the proper distance back.

Mark June 22, 201411:40 pm

What??? Six minutes before half-time, with USA in good possession and the ref calls the drinks break NOW? What???

Rob June 22, 201411:39 pm

Who the hell has a knee tattoo?

Rob June 22, 201411:32 pm

They’ve got into some great positions and wasted the lot.

Rob June 22, 201411:32 pm

The USA gameplan is clearly get it to Dempsey, so he can find someone in space, pass it to them, and watch them shoot off-target from distance.

Mark June 22, 201411:30 pm

USA are waltzing this everywhere but on the scoreboard. Although they are still drawing 0-0 with Ronaldo in the match Lineker and Hansen are watching. Portuguese manager Jools Holland will be worried.

Ian June 22, 201411:29 pm

Comedy of errors moment, there. Bradley shoots from the edge of the penalty area and doesn’t really get hold of the ball, but Beto’s dive is oddly reminiscent of the sort of goalkeeping that you get at primary school matches.

Rob June 22, 201411:28 pm

Asamoah Gyan had 3 shaved and bleached into the side of his head last night.

Ian June 22, 201411:27 pm

Dempsey again. A *lot* of America’s best attacking football channels itself through him. Charged down this time, but he’s seeing a lot of the ball.

Ian June 22, 201411:26 pm

Oh good grief, has Nani got stars shaved into the side of his head? Never mind being sent off, he should be sent home for that.

Ian June 22, 201411:24 pm

Bradley shoots narrowly over the crossbar from a little over twenty yards. The best attacking football so far has definitely come from the USA, which says something about how this game works. Could turn out to be an expensive error from Cameron, that.

Ian June 22, 201411:21 pm

I was struggling a little with who out of those two had the worst hair. I mean, Peckerman’s is dreadful (imagine how that must smell after running around in 70% humidity for an hour and a half), but Meireles hasn’t just got that Godforesaken beard, but also a bloody mohican. A mohican! Hey, Raul, 1978 is calling and it wants its haircut back.

Rob June 22, 201411:19 pm

Was it just me, or did Ronaldo not join in with the goal celebration, despite being three feet away. He raised his arm half-heartedly in a “oh, someone else scored” way, then turned and wandered off in a different direction.

Ian June 22, 201411:19 pm

Beckerman vs Meireles. Dreadlock vs Beard. Almost got velcroed together for life, there. Beckerman probably a little lucky to still be on the pitch after shoving his elbow in Meireles’ face, but it remains eleven vs eleven for now.

Mark June 22, 201411:18 pm

Ronaldo’s walking a bit weirdly…

Ian June 22, 201411:14 pm

Clint Dempsey curls in a free-kick that dips a foot or so over the crossbar. The Americans have found their bearings a little, but that first ten minutes during which they absolutely didn’t have their bearings about them has proved to be a little expensive.

Mark: I thought Helder Postiga being in the Portugal team was a joke at first, and had to go revisit the team sheets before I fully believed it.

Mark June 22, 201411:13 pm

Songs from my childhood, an occasional series: “If Rix can play for England, so can I.”
Just wondering if there’s a Portuguese equivalent for Helder Postiga…and if not, why not?

Ian June 22, 201411:11 pm

Fabian Johnson pulls a move that I think I used to try in Sensible Soccer. Down to the touchline, pull back, and shoot from an angle. It’s only slightly depressing that Johnson is almost certainly too young to be able to remember Sensible Soccer.

Ian June 22, 201411:09 pm

GOAL! USA 0-1 Portugal – It’s Nani! And it’s some bloody dreadful American defending, if we’re absolutely honest. Not only did Cameron swipe at the ball in very much the same way that I would try and hit a golf ball with a golf stick (something that I’ve never tried before), but there was also no cover for him when he did so, meaning that about three Portuguese players were on hand to score at will. And Nani did.

Mark June 22, 201411:08 pm

Its all about Ronaldo…

Ian June 22, 201411:03 pm

“First touch for Cristiano Ronaldo!”, shrieks the comentator. Three seconds later, the ball dribbles wastefuly out of play on the right hand side.

I haven’t decided whether I like Portugal’s kit or not, yet. As a rule I’m not a fan of those two tone numbers, but they are two particularly delicious looking shades of red/burgundy.

Ted June 22, 201410:58 pm

Today’s referee: Herman Munster

Ian June 22, 201410:56 pm

The words to The Star Spangled Banner come from a poem called “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” which by reasonably comment assent is not the greatest piece of poetry ever written. The line “bombs bursting in air” refers to old-fashioned, eighteenth century bombs with string fuses that had been cut incorrectly, if I recall.

Ted June 22, 201410:56 pm

Meanwhile, Portuguese speakers (such as myself) will note that the Portuguese National Anthem has been rewritten to extol the virtues of Ronaldo.

Ian June 22, 201410:55 pm

Okay, just checked that link and it doesn’t redirect to hardcore pornography. Well, not yet, it doesn’t.

Ted June 22, 201410:54 pm


It’s not the most elegantly phrased piece of English, is it?

Ian June 22, 201410:52 pm

Facts That You’ll Only Find Out On This Liveblog: The USA vs Germany is the second of three matches to be played today between two countries, both of which I’ve visited, after Belgium vs Russia. For a full list of countries, click on (I take no responsibility for what happens should anybody copy and paste that link into a browser and then open it.)

Ted June 22, 201410:47 pm

Raul Meireles has an absolutely sensational beard. What with that and his elaborate tattoos, if Portugal are eliminated tonight I’m sure he could easily get a job managing any number of achingly-trendy Brighton watering holes. The sort where they brew their own ale. Out of hops they grew organically. Fertilised with fair trade coffee grounds.

Ian June 22, 201410:35 pm

Good evening, grapple fans!

I’ve been looking forward to this match all day, for several reasons. For one thing (and I’ve probably mentioned this before), the USA team is one of my favourites to watch. They’re not necessarily the most technically adept team in the tournament, but they never know when they’re beaten and, unlike a few European teams I could mention, they always seem to want to be here. Also, I still love Jurgen Klinsmann a little bit from his time at Spurs and falls into the category of being a manager who I would *really* like to see succeed (but probably won’t.)

Portugal, meanwhile, fascinate me. I mean, yes, yes, yes Cristiano Ronaldo, but they’re more than just him – just as the team of a dozen years ago or so was so much more than just Luis Figo – and they just don’t seem to turn up for these tournaments. I mean, that performance against Germany the other day was just wretched, wretched, wretched. They’ve got to win tonight, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how they react to whatever the hell happened to them in their opening match.

Mark June 22, 201410:26 pm

So, if my When Saturday Comes World Cup wallchart is correct, this is the last 11 o’clock kick-off of the tournament. Thank the Gods for that. These 1am finishes were starting to get really gruelling. Still, they’ve saved the best ’til last. And I’d almost be tempted into a sneaky “Go USA!” if I thought it would get that preening prick CR7 off our screens early, thus rendering another 94,000 TV adverts even more irrelevant. Almost.