The land of the free and the new home of… Soccer? America’s apathy for the beautiful game has been one of football’s great eccentricities but the sport is finally beginning to take hold in the States and the profile of the national team can skyrocket with a result against Portgual tonight that gives them a great chance of making the last 16.
Portugal’s defeat to Germany was not exactly a surprise – they were as big as 3/1 before kickoff – but the manner of their slump was extremely dispiriting and even if they put in an improved show today, the aftermath of their thumping leaves them with come critical injuries. Paulo Bento’s side’s main strength as a unit is their defence – despite the presence of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo – but they will turn up with one of their back 5 tonight.
Rui Patrcio’s injury robs Portugal of a fine stopper although his absence is not comparable to that of Pepe, whose insanity against Germany’s Thomas Muller sees him miss this game, his partner Bruno Alves is also injured, and to make things even worse, left back Fabio Coentrao has been ruled out of the rest of the World Cup with a thigh injury.
Upfront, Hugo Almeida’s injury is also another blow Bento doesn’t need and the important of Raul Miereles and Migel Veloso cannot be understated.
There are positives, however. The US may have beaten Ghana but it was thanks to two moments of very average defending that they did so and it is unlikely that Portugal will be so wasteful with 21 shots and 21 crosses this evening. Fabian Johnson was good when he got going forward but looked shaky on the retreat against pace and is the kind of defender Nani thrives against, while DaMarcus Besley will need Jermaine Jones to help him deal with Cristiano Ronaldo. Ghana had 61% of possession against the Americans and that amount of time on the ball for the likes of Joao Moutinhio will spell trouble, and this could be the kind f game that we’ve seen so much of during this tournament.
However, with so many defence injuries the US will be a major treat on the counter attack and with Graham Zusi introduced more pace is added to a side that is already well versed in breaking in numbers and Aaron Johannson’s forced presence after Jozi Atlidore’s hamstring heartbreak only adds zip to their lineup and may be a blessing in disguise. This looks to be a tighter game than the markets think and the US are well capable of giving as good as they get – an Asian handicap of 0.75 is essentially the double chance with only half your stake lost if they lose by a single goal, and that looks the most appealing option.
1 pt USA +0.75 on Asian H’Cap (evs Bet165)