World Cup 2014: 5 reasons to watch USA vs. Portugal

Not a soccer fan? Finding it difficult to get excited about the World Cup?

No worries – we’ve got you covered.

Here are five reasons to catch Team USA’s World Cup showdown against Portugal on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN:

Also, be sure to check out Sunday's games on ABC15! We'll have Belgium vs. Russia at 8:30 a.m., plus South Korea vs. Algeria at 11:30 a.m.

1. A lot on the line.

After its dramatic 2-1 win over long-time nemesis Ghana in its opening World Cup match on Monday, the USA is in good shape to finish as one of the top two teams in its four-team group and advance to the knockout (playoff) stage for the third time in the last four World Cups – but there’s still a lot work to do, starting on Sunday.

There are plenty of scenarios that would put the U.S. into the next round, but a win over Portugal – which was routed 4-0 by Germany on Monday – would all but ensure that it will move on. Even a draw vs. Portugal could prove to be enough, though that result would leave a much smaller margin for error.

2. Their previous meeting.

Despite their loss on Monday, the Portuguese are generally regarded as one of the world’s best teams – but the U.S. got the better of them in their last World Cup meeting. In 2002, Team USA scored three times in the first half, and then held on to defeat Portugal 3-2 – a win that ultimately allowed the Americans to advance to the knockout stage (and ultimately to the quarterfinals) and eliminated Portugal from competition.

There’s no doubt that many Portuguese players and fans remember the ‘02 game well and are anxious for payback. But a repeat performance on Sunday would all but ensure the same end result in this year’s tournament – Team USA would advance, while Portugal would go home early.

3. Ronaldo.

They failed to score against Germany on Monday, but keeping the Portuguese off the scoreboard again will be difficult, as they boast one of the world’s best, and most arrogant, strikers. Cristiano Ronaldo, who played for Manchester United from 2003-09 and currently plays for Real Madrid in Spain, is very talented but very cocky – a man fans love if he’s on their side, and despise if he’s not.

Among several of his preferred celebrations, Ronaldo enjoys taking off his shirt and flexing for the cameras after he scores a goal. One of the keys to success for the USA on Sunday is to ensure that Ronaldo remains fully clothed throughout the match.

4. Tim Howard.

Team USA’s best player is the one who stays the most stationary throughout each match. In the last decade, goalkeeper Tim Howard has played for a pair of the English Premier League’s best clubs (Manchester United from 2003-06; Everton from 2006-today). He made several key saves and smart decisions in the USA’s win on Monday.

If the USA’s defense continues to be shaky as it was against Ghana, Howard will be called upon early and often to make some spectacular stops on Sunday. The battle between Howard and Ronaldo will be an important matchup to watch.

5. A preview of a German showdown.

A U.S. win or draw against Portugal would set the stage for an enormous match with Germany next Thursday, with first place in the group on the line. Team USA is just 3-6-0 all-time against Germany in international play, and the Americans will be a longshot to stay competitive with a German side that has won three World Cups (only Brazil and Italy have won more) and is the favorite of many experts to win a fourth this year.

Adding to the intrigue will be Team USA’s new coach, the German-born Jürgen Klinsmann, who scored for Germany in a 2-0 win over the U.S. in the 1998 World Cup. If first place in the group is at stake next Thursday, the storylines will write themselves.

2014 World Cup – Group G table:

                                W           L              D             Pts          Goal +/-

1. Germany        1              0              0               3             +4

2. USA   1             0             0              3             +1

3. Ghana              0              1              0              0              -1

4. Portugal          0              1              0              0              -4

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