Cristiano Ronaldo, considered the world’s top soccer player, was not much of a factor in Portugal’s World Cup game against the United States — until the final seconds. It was then that Ronaldo, playing with a bad knee, curled a pass to a diving Silvestre Varela, who headed past Tim Howard to give the Portuguese team a 2-2 tie that a was a huge disappointment to America, which was seeking to advance to the second round.
“He made a great cross,” said Howard, Ronaldo’s former teammate from their days at Manchester United. “Football’s cruel sometimes.”
The United States now has four points in Group G, the same as Germany. Both Portugal and Ghana have one point. The Americans will face Germany on Thursday in Recife, while Portugal takes on Ghana at the same time.
“Obviously we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the positives, we got a point,” said United States captain Clint Dempsey, who scored to give the Americans a 2-1 lead in the 81st. “It’s going down to the last game and hopefully we get the job done.”
Nani scored first for Portugal, shooting past a sprawling Howard in the fifth minute. But the Americans responded in the second half as Portugal seemed to wilt in the stifling heat.
Ronaldo, the world player of the year, rarely sparkled on the hot and humid night in the jungle, but his inch-perfect stoppage-time cross set up Varela was a thing of beauty.
Jermaine Jones made it 1-1 with a curling shot in the 64th after a cross from Graham Zusi made its way through the Portugal defense. And Dempsey, playing with a broken nose, then put the Americans ahead, using his stomach to direct the ball into the net from a cross by Zusi.
“Now we have to go out and beat Germany, that’s what we have to do,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We have to play Germany, we have one less day to recover, we played in the Amazon, they played on a place with less travel. We have to do it the tough way.”
Dempsey’s goal was his fourth at a World Cup and second at this year’s tournament. Jones scored his third goal for the United States national team and first in almost two years.
It was all Portugal for much of the first half, with Ronaldo in the starting lineup but getting less involved as the match progressed. The Americans, however, started to get more and more chances and even had a shot from Michael Bradley cleared off the line by Ricardo Costa in the 55th minute.