Today is the day we've been counting down to. With the Germans unable to break through against Ghana, coming up short in a 2-2 tie, the Group of Death is wide open, with the Americans having a chance to clinch a place in the knock-out round with a win today. If you apply the faulty logic of transitive football results, the Americans beat Ghana 2-1, Ghana tied Germany at 2-2, and Germany beat Portugal 4-0, so of course, that portends a 5-0 win for the Americans.
Of course, football is never that easy, especially against one of the top teams in the world, one that lines up one of the best players on the planet. As we saw yesterday in the Iran vs. Argentina game, La Albiceleste, one of the favorites to win the whole tournament, were unable to break down the stubborn resistance of a defense-first Iranian team, and in one moment of brilliance from one of the game's special players, the game changed and the Iranians were robbed of a hard-fought result in the 92nd minute.
Before we get to the game we're all waiting for, we first have the Belgian Red Devils, led by Eden Hazard, taking on a tough Russian side at 9 a.m. PST on ABC. A win for the Belgians will book them a place in the knock-out stage, while a loss for Russia would put them on the brink of elimination, after settling for a draw against South Korea in their first game. The Belgians found themselves up against some stubborn resistance from Algeria but found a way to grind out a 2-1 win, so they should manage to be able to do the same against Russia - but then again, this World Cup has refused to follow the script.
The second game on tap today will be our friends from South Korea taking on Algeria at noon PST on ABC. With the Algerians showing better than expected, it will be an unpredictable game, a real even clash between two teams hoping to grab the upper hand in the race for second place in Group H (assuming, of course, that Belgium drops the Russians today).
Finally, once the Group H games are out of the way, we finally get to our huge match against Portugal at 3 p.m. PST on ESPN. It's the biggest game the United States has played in a very long time and a win over a vaunted (but injured) Portugal side, would really help propel the Americans' profile in the international game. The SB Nation mothership has a preview of today's game here, and of course, there's complete coverage of all things related to the USMNT over at Stars and Stripes FC.
The weather is going to be oppressive, as the Americans will be playing in the heart of the Amazon rain-forest in Manaus, but with Portugal beat up by injury (Hugo Almedia is out, Fabio Conetrao is out, Cristiano Ronaldo is less than 100%, despite the Portuguese camp's claims to the contrary) and suspension (Pepe is watching from the stands today), so the United States will have a huge chance to break through and book their place in the knock-out stage.
Oh yeah, it's time. Let's do this America. Kick off for our boys in Red, White, and Blue is set for 3 p.m. PST on ESPN. This is your World Cup open thread for the eleventh day of action. Fire away with your thoughts, analysis, and opinions as you tune in and as we cheer on the Red, White and Blue.