Monday, June 16, 2014

Portugal Sets Table for USA

The United States' National team could not have asked for a better gift from Portugal in game one of the purported "group of death" in this year's World Cup.  Not only did Portugal lose, they lost big.  That, in and of itself, would be a grand gift to the USA, as it puts Portugal not only one game down but several goals down and likely in last after round one of play in Group G.

Portugal did the US two more favors, however, when Pepe, the heart of Portugal's defense, was booked with a red card for head-butting a German player.  The red card means that Pepe will not be available for Portugal's game against the US.  In addition to the loss of Pepe, Portugal likely will be without two other starters injured in the Germany game and is still feeling the effects of a lingering injury to star player Cristiano Ronaldo.

For Portuguese fans, the picture could not be more bleak.  For U.S. and Ghana fans, opportunity knocks.  The winner of tonight's game not only moves atop the standings with Germany, but also appears an odds-on favorite to beat a depleted, despondent Portuguese team.

Even more than Ghana, the United States stands to gain from today's events.  Not only will the US face Portugal minus Pepe and likely two other starters--the former unlikely and the latter unknown for Ghana--the US also will have an opportunity to cement its position among the top two in its group, prior to meeting Germany.  Ghana will face Germany needing to win and will have the additional pressure that goes with that.

That makes tonight's USA-Ghana matchup all the more intriguing, as the winner gets a large leg up.  Both teams understand this and both almost certainly will arrive on the pitch looking to win, rather than trying not to lose.

Up Next: Post-Game.

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