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MANAUS, Brazil – Portugal still has a chance to advance at the World Cup, albeit a really small chance.
But as Cristiano Ronaldo proved again on Sunday, anything can happen when the world player of the year is on the field.
The Portuguese earned their first point at this year's World Cup with a 2-2 draw against the United States on a hot and steamy night at the Arena da Amazonia. And as the players appeared to wilt in the stifling heat, it was Ronaldo that sent in a perfect cross for Varela to head past United States goalkeeper Tim Howard in the final seconds of the match.
"It's a respectable result," Portugal coach Paulo Bento said, perhaps understating how much his team needed to avoid a loss. "We know our position is quite difficult now."
Portugal lost big in the opening match, falling to Germany 4-0, and was seconds away from immediate elimination on Sunday. But now with one point, the team still has an outside chance of beating Ghana on Thursday in Brasilia by a big enough margin to overcome a poor goal differential and advance.
However, if the United States and Germany, both with four points, draw in Recife at the same time, Portugal will be out.
"We're depending on third parties. We're depending on results of other teams," Bento said. "There's a high difference in goals, but that's the only hope we have so we have to play. We have to continue and try to do our best."
Portugal looked good at the start against the Americans, and Nani gave them the lead in the fifth minute. But as the match wore on, the Portuguese looked to be struggling with the high heat and humidity of the Amazon rainforest.
Referee Nestor Pitana of Argentina called for a cooling break in the 39th minute, the first such decision to be taken at the World Cup. But it was the Americans who emerged from halftime looking fresh, getting goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey, the latter in the 81st minute.
Portugal never gave up.
"In terms of opportunities, we could have had more goals," Bento said. "We never lost control of the match."
Ronaldo played for second time at this World Cup despite a left knee injury, and again lasted the full 90 minutes. However, Portugal had four starters from the previous match out with either injury or through suspension.
"There didn't seem to be any problem with Cristiano Ronaldo," Bento said. "What happened during the game has something to do with our other players."