It was a win or die situation for Portugal and obviously, Cristiano Ronaldo was in the spotlight.
Fortunately for the Seleçao das Quinas, and after a brilliant play by Cristiano where he mopped the floor with four Americans, Nani (yes, THAT Nani) gave Portugal the lead at the fifth minute. Cameron lost the ball in his own territory and the Manchester United player didn't waste the chance.
Slowly, the USA started to find themselves with the ball a bit more and a weak Portuguese midfield wasn't doing the current Ballon D'Or any favours. Meireles, particularly, was looking extremely inaccurate and even slow, early in the game.
The ref didn't help either after he missed a clear elbow hit by Beckerman on Meireles. You know what would've happened if the aggressor had been Pepe, who was sent off against Germany for a much softer encounter with Thomas Müller.
It needs to be said that Ronaldo was extremely participant in the game. He often sacrificed to defend and try to recover the ball. He was also all over the place, trying to open spaces for Nani or Eder, who replaced Hélder Postiga after he got injured. He even got to his own territory and recovered a couple balls.
By the 30th minute, the USA were the better team, creating many chances and possessing the ball more than Portugal. Who was Portugal's best player in the first half? Obviously, the Commander. It was him against the entire USA and Portugal's few chances always went through Ronaldo's boots.
Portugal would have a great chance to make it 2-0 at the 42nd minute, after Cristiano served Nani with a great pass, leaving him with an open lane just outside the box to try to beat Tim Howard, but the American GK deflected Nani's shot. Just a couple minutes later, Nani (!) hit the post and Eder got a shot on the rebound but Howard made a fantastic save to keep the scoreboard intact.
And so, the first half was over.
Portugal started the second half a bit better than the US, but it was still a pretty even match.
The USA had the better chance on a wide-open net for Bradley to take, but Ricardo Costa deflected the ball right on the goal line with his left knee to keep the Americans from getting the tie.
Things would start to get even tougher for Portugal after a fantastic strike by Jones, to make it 1-1. Beto didn't even try to make a save. To make it worse for Portugal, Meireles had a chance to tie it moments later, but Tim Howard again saved his goal.
At this point, the game could go either way, with both teams getting chances. It was an entertaining back-and-forth match that worked a lot better for the USA.
Time went by and Portugal controlled the game a lot more. Still, the order by the USA and the lack of ideas by all of those surrounding Cristiano kept Portugal from getting meaningful chances to regain the lead. Other than a decent shot from outside the box by Nani, not a a lot happened for the Portuguese.
At the 80th minute, the World Cup was practically over for Portugal as Clint Dempsey scored the 2-1 after a ridiculous play in which an idiotic and lazy Bruno Alves stayed down, keeping Dempsey from being offside.
With a game that looked all but over, the ref decided to add five minutes, but still Portugal didn't look like they had what it takes to tie it. And then, Cristiano Ronaldo happened at the 94th minute. Ronaldo moved to the right and delivered the most perfect cross to Varela who headed it with a lot of rage to beat Howard and keep the Seleçao das Quinas barely alive in the World Cup. 2-2
And that was it for this game, which has been one of the best in the entire tournament. The USA were better than Portugal and probably deserved to take the three points. They have been one of the best surprises of Brazil 2014. Still, you have to be focused against Ronaldo until the ref says it's over.
Portugal is Cristiano Ronaldo and ten other players. And that's it. We're talking about a guy that probably shouldn't be playing at all, but the Ballon D'Or is killing himself for his country. Even with those knee issues and the overall fatigue accumulated after an incredibly demanding year with Real Madrid, Cristiano is doing his best for his country. All of this and that perfect cross in the end just show how much he cares.
Ronaldo has simply done it all. He helped defend around midfield, moved all over the place and obviously worked as Portugal's most dangerous man. The problem comes with those surrounding him. Nani, even with that goal, has been miserable for Portugal, and Éder looked extremely ordinary. Portugal's defense has been just as tragic. The USA's second goal comes on a disastrous defensive play, where Bruno Alves stays down and keeps Dempsey from being offside. I mean, the guy didn't even care about getting up to defend and empty net. He just lied there doing nothing. That, and one of the toughest groups in the entire World Cup, is just too much to overcome for the best player in the world.
If they want to advance, Portugal needs to beat Ghana and hope Germany does the same with the USA and then wait for the goal differential tie-breaker. A tie would work for both the Germans and the Americans, but with the pride of each nation, settling for the tie would be really surprising.
A Commander can't win a war without an army, but let's root for Ronaldo as long as there is hope out there for him and his country.