The best players at the World Cup can dominate a game. As the United States learned the hard way, the best players at the World Cup can also change a game in a matter of seconds.
With the U.S. just moments from a win that would have sealed a spot in the Round of 16, Cristiano Ronaldo rescued a draw for Portugal by setting up a game-tying goal in the last minute of stoppage time at Arena Amazonia in Manaus on Sunday. In the 95th minute of play, Ronaldo received the ball on the right wing after U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley was dispossessed in the middle of the field. After taking a touch to bring the ball under control, Ronaldo looked toward the goal and sent an inch-perfect cross toward the six-yard box. Portugal's Varela, running in the from left wing, got his head to the ball and drove it past U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. The last-gasp equalizer salvaged a draw for Portugal and kept alive its chances of advancing to the Round of 16.
Here's the Varela goal from Cristiano in the final seconds that saved Portugal's World Cup hopes: http://t.co/fglWiyBDrl
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 23, 2014
Up until that counterattack, Ronaldo had been largely held in check by the United States and had failed to capitalize on his few chances. With one precise pass in the last possible moment, he made up for his earlier anonymity and stunned the United States. The draw ensured that all four teams in the "Group of Death" still have something to play for entering their final group-stage games.
"He made a great cross," Howard told reporters after the 2-2 draw, via The Associated Press. "Football's cruel sometimes."