U.S. confident ahead of Portugal match

U.S.'s team players train at Arena da Amazonia stadium in Manaus on June 21, 2014, where Portugal...

U.S.'s team players train at Arena da Amazonia stadium in Manaus on June 21, 2014, where Portugal and U.S. will play a World Cup match. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:32 PM ET

MANAUS, Brazil -- U.S. bench boss Jurgen Klinsmann called timeout during Saturday's pre-match press conference. He scampered off stage.

"I'm going to go," the German legend said. "I have to catch a game. The last couple of minutes."

Ghana was close to blowing the Group of Death wide open until Germany equalized late in the second half.

Klinsmann then returned following his self-imposed intermission with a blunt statement: "We believe we can beat Portugal."

If the U.S. does win, it will advance to the round of 16 well before a do-or-die match with Germany next week.

"We want to take our game to Portugal," Klinsmann added. "We want to get three points."

They were the same words Portugal coach Paulo Bento uttered 30 minutes earlier.

After his side suffered a punishing 4-0 defeat to Germany last week, a draw against the Yanks Sunday won't be enough considering goal differential.

"Either we win, or we start packing our suitcases," Bento bluntly stated. "If we draw, we practically pack our suitcases."

Bento's boys will have to win without key starters. Centre back Pepe is facing a red-card suspension and Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida were both carted off with injuries during Portugal's big loss.

"There's a possibility of having another absence," Bento said.

All of Portugal held its breath.

Then Bento disclosed the injury: Bruno Alves. It's a big blow, considering Portugal is already minus one starting centre back.

Still, considering an "injured" Cristiano Ronaldo was reportedly done last week, Portuguese fans exhaled for the time being. Every indication Saturday was that Ronaldo is fit to play.

And following Lionel Messi'a early-tournament display, pundits have been clear that it's time for Ronaldo to finally have a day -- the only thing missing from his storied resume.

"I told (Ronaldo) I'd never put anything on his shoulders to solve our problems," Bento said. "The players have a collective responsibility."

Ronaldo's teammates, Bento insisted, are the reason Portugal is here.

Then he corrected himself. Ronaldo did net a hat-trick in Sweden, he recalled.

"We don't expect anything more from him," Portugal's Raul Meireles said. "We just want him and the players that represent our national team to do their best."

U.S. midfielder Jermain Jones said Saturday that he and his teammates haven't focused on Ronaldo in the build-up. They have a match plan that concerns the entire Portuguese team.

Responsibility for Ronaldo's whereabouts will largely fall to U.S. fullback Fabian Johnson, who along with the Yanks' entire back four will have his hands full.

"We always knew Ronaldo was special," U.S. goalie Tim Howard reminisced.

Howard backstopped Manchester United when Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford in 2003.

"The moment he stepped in the door he had skills I'd never seen before," Howard continued. "He's the hardest-working player I've ever been around. His work ethic is incredible. But if you pay too much attention, someone else will beat us."

That would, no doubt, ruin the day for the tens of thousands of U.S. supporters who are expected to cram into Arena Amazonia. FIFA announced pre-tournament that it has distributed close to 200,000 tickets to U.S. fans traveling to the tournament.

During its 2-1 win over Ghana in Natal, the U.S. was essentially playing in front of home support.

"We have to deal with our feelings, our strategy, our organization," Bento said when reminded of the advantage U.S. supporters gave their team in Natal. "Our opponents are aggressive and intense players. The fact they can have a draw, let's see how they start playing."

That was before the chaos produced by Saturday's Germany-Ghana result.

While the U.S. will progress with consecutive draws, needing a result against Germany won't sit easy. It's the reason Klinsmann was adamant about taking an intermission here Saturday to take in the rest of group proceedings.

"We have to have a team that is sure of itself and will control all of the situations of the game," Bento said.

Including the weather, which here in the Amazon can be quite hellish -- something the U.S. thinks it's better prepared for.

"We are aware of the conditions," Klinsmann finished. "We are prepared for the climate. We have similar climates in CONCACAF."

But Klinsmann forgot to add one thing.

CONCACAF doesn't have Ronaldo.

SUPER FAN'S BEEN EVERYWHERE

Like the U.S., Kaela Porter, a 43-year-old from Boston, has been to every World Cup since 1998.

She's also one of the tens of thousands of Yankee Doodle Dandies who will cram into Arena Amazonia in Manaus for Sunday's game against Portugal.

"This is the first year I haven't had to explain to people what the World Cup is," Porter said, acknowledging that each World Cup she has been to has its own flavour. "In previous years, people wondered why I came."

First, it was France 1998. Then South Korea/Japan.

After that, she made her way to Germany, followed by South Africa.

She's been everywhere, man.

Porter is planning on heading to Russia in 2018, too, as well as Qatar 2022, if the tournament remains in the Middle East.

"I don't think it will be there," Porter told me. "It's the size of Connecticut. It's a dumb, dumb choice."

As a self-employed pharmacokineticist -- someone who studies a drug's affect on the body -- she has time to tour the globe.

Naturally, the conversation shifts to medicine.

"There are so many undiscovered cures here in the rainforest," she said.

"Is there a cure for (injured U.S. forward) Jozy Altidore's hamstring?" I asked.

She laughed: "I wish!"

As do the rest of U.S. fans.


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