World Cup - Late Varela strike rescues Portugal

World Cup Group G, Arena Amazonia, Manaus - Portugal 2 (Nani 5, Varela 90+5) USA 2 (Jones 64, Dempsey 81)

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World Cup - Late Varela strike rescues Portugal
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US goalkeeper Tim Howard (R) reacts after Portugal's forward Silvestre Varela (C) scored during a Group G football match between USA and Portugal at the Amazonia Arena in Manaus during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 22, 2014 (AFP)

A Silvestre Varela header in the final seconds of the final minute of injury time kept Portugal in the World Cup after the USA had looked to have dumped them out.

Having conceded an early goal to Nani in the opening five minutes, the USA rallied excellently to lead 2-1 thanks to goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey.

But with Portugal all but down and out, Portugal broke at pace and a superb Cristiano Ronaldo cross found substitute Varela who headed home with only seconds on the clock remaining.

Portugal came into the match knowing that defeat would see them dumped out of the tournament. And they got off to the best possible start as Nani converted Miguel Veloso’s cross.

The USA had keeper Tim Howard to thank for keeping them in it with a fantastic save from Eder just before the break and then took a shock lead midway through the second half after Jones fired in a superb curled effort from outside the box and Dempsey bundled home.

It looked to have given USA an historic win and a second round berth but for Varela's late, late equaliser courtesy of Ronaldo’s pinpoint cross.

The result is a great one for conspiracy theorists out there, with both USA and Germany only needing a point to progress when they meet in their final group game.

Portugal will likely need a heavy defeat of Ghana to boost their goal difference if they are to harbour any hopes of progressing.

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KEY MOMENTS

PRE-MATCH: Graham Zusi starts for USA with Jurgen Klinsmann adopting a 4-5-1 formation with Clint Dempsey the lone striker despite his broken nose. Four changes for Portugal with Pepe suspended and Contrao injured. As expected, Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal with Nani and Postiga in attack. Eder misses out.

5’ – GOAL PORTUGAL: Cameron swings and misses Veloso’s cross which falls straight to Nani and he fires into the roof of the net.

12’ – DEMPSEY GOES CLOSE: The USA have a free kick but Dempsey fizzes one just over Beto’s bar.

17’ – DEMPSEY SHOT SAVED: Bradley finds Dempsey on the right side of the box and he shoots on goal. The angle is tight and Beto saves.

32’ – JOHNSON GOES CLOSE: Johnson tries his luck form distance on his left foot and it flies just wide with Beto rooted to the spot.

41’ – DANGEROUS SHOT NANI: Ronaldo feeds Nani in on goal but Howard beats away his shot.

44’ – BRILLIANT SAVE HOWARD: Howard deflects Nani’s first shot onto his post and Eder looks to have put in the rebound but for Howard’s outstretched fingertips.

55’ – SUPERB BLOCK COSTA: Bradley thinks he’s converted Zusi’s cross but it’s a fabulous goalline clearance from Costa off his knee.

61’ – RONALDO MISS: He bares down on goal but shanks it horribly wide from a narrow angle.

64' - GOAL USA! It’s a thunderbolt from Jones from outside the box into the far corner. Wonderful strike.

81’ – GOAL USA: Dempsey converts Zusi’s deflected cross-cum-shot after a great run and cross from Yedlin.

90+5’ – GOAL PORTUGAL: Amazing stuff as Varela is on hand to head in Ronaldo’s cross.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

KEY STATS

USA have still not won two World Cup games in a row since their opening two matches in the inaugural tournament in 1930.

Cristiano Ronaldo had seven shots but only one was on target.

USA have scored in eight successive World Cup games, their best run since their opening eight matches (1930-1990).

Clint Dempsey has now scored in three of his last four appearances for the USA.

Portugal have won only one of their last nine World Cup games (D4 L4).

USA have conceded in each of their last 15 World Cup games against European opposition.

Opta

TALKING POINT: Ronaldo saves Portugal’s blushes but is he fit? The forward had a quiet game but one moment of magic kept his side in it. His fabulous cross deep in injury time means he lives to fight another day but it is becoming patently clear that he is not fit. How fit is he? On today's showing, not very. Portugal's insistence on playing their star man may very well have cost them their place at the tournament.

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MAN OF THE MATCH

Jermaine Jones (USA): Worked tirelessly for his team all night and capped a fine performance with a goal of the tournament contender.

PLAYER RATINGS

USA: Howard 8, Bradley 7, Besler 6, Beasley 6, Dempsey 7, Bedoya 6, Jones 9, Beckerman 6, Zusi 7, Cameron 6, Johnson 7. SUBS: Yedlin 6, Gonzalez 6, Wondolowski 6.

Portugal: Beto 6, Bruno Alves 6, Veloso 6, Ronaldo 7, Moutinho 7, Costa 7, Meireles 6, Nani 7, A. Almeida 6, Pereira 6, Postiga 5. SUBS: Carvalho 6, Eder 7, Varela 7.

MATCH IN A TWEET

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