With England out, the Salut! Sunderland readership choice of the USA makes them our Brazil 2014 team. Our US correspondent Grant Tunkel rode an uncontrollable rollercoaster of emotions, from hope to dismay to ecstasy to last-ditch disappointment to pride, as the USA recovered from a woeful start against Portugal, deservedly equalised, even more deservedly led and then suffered the cruel injustice of the loss of two points in the dying seconds. That man Ronaldo, mastered for huge chunks of the game, popped up with a magical cross and 2-1 was suddenly 2-2.
Progress can still be ensured by avoiding defeat in the last game of the group stage and Ghana have shown Germany can be matched. Now read and feel Grant’s report …
If you had told me at 6pm Eastern Time that the United States would secure a point vs Portugal, I’d have taken it.
If you told me the United States would play a markedly better game, one in which they deserved to hang with one of the world’s best teams, I’d have taken it.
If you told me Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey would score, and that Cristiano Ronaldo would be neutralized for 90 minutes, I’d have taken it.
But by 8pm Eastern Time, I was willing to take none of that. I wanted three points. I had three points.
Then Ronaldo happened.
I came into Sunday’s match with high expectations. At no point did I think the US would lose: not before kickoff, and certainly not after Geoff Cameron’s mishit gifted Nani and the Portuguese an early 1-0 lead.
Those expectations remained high as the US dictated the terms of play right through the end of the first half and well into the second. At one point, I turned to a friend and said, “The US has at least one goal in them.”
So when Jones equalized with a gorgeous, curling strike, I celebrated. And then I got greedy. I wanted three points.
Based on the way things were trending, that was distinctly possible. The US was far and away the better team in Manaus on Sunday night.
So when Dempsey banged home, I skipped past celebration and went straight to jubilation. The United States had the lead. They had the momentum. They had the talent. They had the drive.
They had the clock on their side. They had the spot in Round of 16.
But they couldn’t close it out.
Ronaldo found just enough space, sent in a world-class cross, and Varela headed it home to stun the United States.
So there it was: The draw, the point, the terrific showing, the fine performance, the whole lot. We had the outcome I would have taken at 6 pm Eastern Time.
And here we are now.
It’s 11pm Eastern Time as I wrap up this recap. I’m trying to accept that the US is still in second place, needing just a draw against Germany to advance to the Round of 16. I’m trying to accept the result I would have taken at 6 pm.
I just can’t.
The US had three points. They deserved three points. Let us hope the win that got away won’t come back to haunt them Thursday.
* In case you’re new to Salut! Sunderland’s World Cup coverage, here once again is that poll. Voting remains open through the competition until the eve of the final. Naturally you should avoid voting for teams already eliminated. Brazil were not included because the numbers had to be trimmed to 30 to meet the pollsters’ template and it seemed logical to drop the hosts. England were not included as they were naturally our first choice …