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Sports, Soccer, Santa Monica

Preview: U.S.-Portugal World Cup Match To Kickoff At 3pm

Posted Jun. 22, 2014, 9:22 am

Mirror Staff

Today's U.S.-Portugal World Cup match will kickoff at 3 pm and will be preceded by 30 minutes of pregame coverage on ESPN.

A U.S. victory over Portugal in Manaus, Brazil would assure it of advancing to the round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup and third in the last four.

The U.S. would also be assured of advancing if it defeats Germany in its final game in group play Thursday or if it ties both Portugal and Germany.

Both teams will be making changes to their starting lineups from their openers in Group G. Forward Jozy Altidore will miss the game because of the hamstring injury that forced him out of the Americans' 2-1 victory over Ghana Monday in the 23rd minute.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has not announced who will replace Altidore in the starting lineup. The likely options are Aron Johannsson, who replaced Altidore Monday, and Chris Wondolowski, the leading goal scorer in Major League Soccer in 2010 and 2012.

"Jozy is a special player. You can't replace him,'' Wondolowski said.

"I think that both Aron and I bring different styles, different sets of skills that are useful and I think that's what we have do is incorporate those skill sets and be able to fit into the game plan as well."

Defender Matt Besler, the other U.S. player who was forced out of Monday's game because of an injury, will be available to play, as will forward Clint Dempsey, who suffered a nasal fracture due to a high kick by Ghana defender John Boye in the first half. Dempsey remained in the game despite the injury.

Portugal will be without two of its starting defenders from its 4-0 loss to Germany Monday.

Pepe is serving the mandatory one-game suspension for the red card he received when he head-butted German star Thomas Muller in the 37th  minute.

Fabio Coentrao will be sidelined for the remainder of the tournament because of a groin injury he sustained in Monday's match.

Portugal is led by forward Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year who has scored 49 goals in 112 international matches.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is a supreme player," Wondolowski said. "He has done amazing things and especially in this past year, the level he has taken is pretty special.

"We definitely have to stop him, but we don't want anyone else to beat us. We're not just focusing on one guy because when you do that, there are 10 other guys out there that can beat you.''

Portugal is fourth in the rankings compiled by FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body, nine spots ahead of the U.S. The series is tied, 2-2-1, with the U.S. winning the most recent match, 3-2, in the 2002 World Cup, the only previous World Cup meeting between the teams.

South Korea opened World Cup play by tying Russia, 1-1, on Tuesday in a Group H match. Algeria lost its opener to Belgium, 2-1, also on Tuesday. Algeria is ranked 22nd and South Korea tied for 57th.

South Korea defeated Algeria, 2-0, in the only previous match between the two teams, an exhibition in 1985.

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