SALVADOR, Brazil — Even before the United States took the field for its win over Ghana on Monday, it had to feel pretty good about its upcoming World Cup matchup against Portugal, which turned in a nightmare performance in its loss to Germany earlier in the day.
The fallout? When Portugal faces the U.S. squad on Sunday in Manaus, it could be without three starters. And for those who do dress, who knows what kind of mental state they’ll be in after Germany embarrassed them so thoroughly in Salvador.
“Of course, we’re not satisfied. We’re not happy right now,” Portuguese Coach Paulo Bento said. “This a difficult moment because starting the tournament with these results and these conditions surely is a complicated thing. But I continue to say the same thing: This is the moment where we’ll see who we are.”
Bento knows for certain he’ll be without Pepe, one of his top defenders who was slapped with a red card in Monday’s 4-0 defeat. He was also pessimistic about the status of two other players who suffered injuries against Germany. Striker Hugo Almeida and defender Fabio Coentrao each left the game with muscle injuries.
The players who were healthy Monday were not particularly impressive against a well-oiled German machine, perhaps most notably Cristiano Ronaldo, whose health was a big concern in the weeks leading up to the World Cup. He didn’t show his usual dynamism on the pitch, but Bento said he didn’t think Ronaldo’s health was a concern.
“From a clinical perspective, we’ve been told that he’s well,” the coach said.
The Portuguese team has five days to regroup, which isn’t enough time for major changes. Bento will see who’s healthy, study film and hope that their second outing is better than the first. Portugal knows what’s on the line. Germany and the United States both already have three points and another loss will surely doom Portugal’s chances of advancing out of the group stage. A tie likely won’t be enough either, considering the first tie-breaker in the World Cup is goal-differential.
“We’ll have to make changes, of course,” Bento said. “There are several changes to be made . . . but in terms of reformulating everything, reformulating our processes, from our perspective and in my opinion, this would be the biggest mistake we could make.”
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