MANAUS, Brazil — Moths and mosquitoes circled when the United States took the field for practice Saturday evening at Arena da Amazonia, a 40,000-seat stadium built in a remote area of the rainforest where the Rio Negro meets the Amazon.
And as the Americans stretched in the heat and humidity in their final training session before Sunday’s World Cup game against Portugal, a double rainbow shimmered — said by some to herald an occurrence with great meaning.
With a win over the Portuguese and reigning world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, the U.S. would accomplish a pair of American firsts: reaching the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups and advancing with a game to spare.
“This is now the moment where you can prove yourself. This is the moment where you can step up and play those guys and put them in place,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “So we want to put Cristiano and his team in his place.”
The Americans opened with a 2-1 win over Ghana on Monday behind John Brooks’ 86th-minute goal, while Portugal dropped an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Germany. When Ghana and Germany tied 2-2 on Saturday, the U.S. was suddenly in position to clinch advancement with a win Sunday.
“That’s a good result for us, to know that if we can win, we take care of business, the rest is history,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
A victory over the fourth-ranked Portuguese would mean the U.S. could then win the group with a tie against Germany next week. Klinsmann, a former star striker and coach for Germany, was so excited to watch the end of Saturday’s game that he ran out of his own news conference after about five minutes, took in the final moments, then returned to answer more questions.
“It just confirms what we all knew from the beginning on, that it’s a very, very difficult group,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity tomorrow here in Manaus, and we will definitely go for it.”
The Americans needed a shot in the arm for this match — up to five inoculations per player, to be precise, for protection against typhoid, yellow fever, tetanus, hepatitis A and influenza after they started training last month in California. Players also were offered medication to prevent malaria, the mosquito-borne infectious disease, but all 23 declined.
“It’s a World Cup,” Chris Wondolowski said. “It doesn’t matter what’s going into your body or how hot it will be.”
GERMANY 2, GHANA 2
FORTALEZA, Brazil — Miroslav Klose rescued a point for Germany, and tied the World Cup scoring record in the process.
Germany was held to a draw by Ghana on Saturday, needing Klose’s equalizer in the 71st minute to avoid another second-game letdown that has plagued the team in recent tournaments.
Klose now has 15 World Cup goals in four tournaments, equaling the mark set by former Brazil star Ronaldo. He celebrated the goal with his trademark summersault.
“It was complete, but I can’t remember the last time I did it,” said Klose, who scored less than two minutes after entering the game as a substitute. “Still, 15 goals in 20 matches, that’s not bad.”
Mario Goetze had put Germany ahead in the 51st, but Ghana equalized three minutes later through Andre Ayew.
Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan then put the Africans ahead in the 63rd, only to see Klose cancel out his goal.
ARGENTINA 1, IRAN 0
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Lionel Messi finally found a way through Iran’s defensive wall with a superb goal in stoppage time to give Argentina a narrow victory and a place in the World Cup knockout stages.
Iran had defended solidly throughout the game and also took the match to Argentina in the second half, creating several chances to win the Group F match and cause a tournament sensation.
But Iran was punished for those missed chances when Messi collected the ball about 20 yards (meters) out and curled a shot into the left hand corner.
NIGERIA 1, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 0
CUIABA, Brazil — Peter Odemwingie’s first-half goal sealed Nigeria’s first victory in a World Cup match since 1998 and eliminated tournament newcomer Bosnia-Herzegovina from contention.
Odemwingie finished from close range in the 29th minute after one of a string of powerful runs by fellow striker Emmanuel Emenike.
Bosnia faded after a bright start, during which star striker Edin Dzeko had a goal contentiously disallowed for offside, and is still without a point in Group F following a 2-1 defeat to Argentina in its opener.
By wire sources