Manaus, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Silvestre Varela scored in the dying moments for Portugal to salvage a 2-2 draw against the United States at the Arena Amazonia on Sunday, keeping all four teams in Group G alive.
The Americans took a 2-1 lead into stoppage time after Clint Dempsey scored in the 81st minute to put them in front, but Cristiano Ronaldo's cross picked out Varela in front of goal and he turned home a header on the final play of the match to deny the U.S. a place in the knockout round.
Nani put Portugal up 1-0 in the fifth minute after a failed clearance from Geoff Cameron, but the U.S. battled back to take the lead with second-half goals from Jermaine Jones and Dempsey, only to see the three points snatched away at the death.
Jurgen Klinsmann's side will now face Germany on Thursday with the two sides tied atop the group on four points, while Portugal squares off with Ghana as both teams enter the match with one point.
"It's clearly not a good result for us. The 2-2 doesn't put us out of the World Cup mathematically, but it does leave us in a very difficult situation," said Portugal head coach Paulo Bento. "Not just because of what we'll need to do against Ghana, but also because we'll need a favorable result from the Germany-United States game. We were unlucky late in the first half, but it was a great effort to level the match [in second-half injury time]. Now all we can do is to give everything in our very last game and try and make the most of the very little chance that we have left."
A draw for the Americans against Germany would send both sides through, while Portugal or Ghana must win their game and get help.
"We want to recover fast and go at Germany and get three points and have seven points and be in the driving seat for the round of 16," Klinsmann said following the draw. "Obviously it's a little more difficult after conceding that second goal and I'm sure that in four days we're going to see a very exciting match in Recife."
Dempsey got the U.S. off to a perfect start against Ghana with a goal in the opening minute, but the Americans couldn't have started worse on Sunday as Cameron made a mess of a driven ball from Miguel Veloso, scuffing his clearance and allowing Nani to fire a shot into the roof of the net at the back post.
Klinsmann's men responded well after the goal, however, as Dempsey had a shot saved by the legs of goalkeeper Beto while Michael Bradley saw a left-footed effort whistle past the crossbar from 25 yards.
Portugal nearly found a second goal shortly before the break when Nani's shot from outside the area deceived goalkeeper Tim Howard and struck the post, while Howard did well to recover and tip the rebound from Eder over the crossbar.
The second half saw the U.S. take charge of the match, with Bradley being handed a great scoring opportunity by Fabian Johnson, who pulled the ball back from the end line with Beto out of position. However, Bradley's effort was blocked on the goal line by defender Ricardo Costa, keeping Portugal in front.
A corner kick nine minutes later led to the equalizer as Jones collected an attempted clearance at the top of box and lashed a shot inside the right post that left Beto rooted to his spot.
It was a fantastic strike and it was followed 17 minutes later by Dempsey's goal, which saw the captain redirect a cross from Graham Zusi into the net with his chest from six yards.
But after winning the game against Ghana with a goal in the final five minutes, the Americans found themselves on the other side of things on Sunday when Ronaldo got down the right wing and delivered a cross into the middle of the area for Varela to head home, keeping Portugal alive.
"When you concede a goal in the last second then it's unlucky," said Klinsmann. "Our boys put in an extraordinary performance. The journey's now a little bit longer for us, but we want to beat Germany to confirm our place in the round of 16. I'm a little frustrated with this draw, but we're going to work hard to make sure this doesn't happen again."