I think the U.S. players believe that they will win. They will play to their abilities. They won’t be overawed. It is rare that a soccer match can be controlled by one player … team play is crucial. And Portugal will not be at 100%, due to injuries and suspensions.
And yet … Iran earned a well-deserved upset draw with Argentina, except Leo Messi pull a bit of magic out of his boots. If there is one other player who can “do a Messi” in that way, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo. If Ronaldo is fit, the U.S. is in trouble. They can have a good tactical plan to deal with him … he can have what passes for a bad game by his standards … but if he’s fit, I think Portugal will win.
But that’s a big if.
It’s fun to be an American fan at times like this, thanks in part to those casual fans who only turn up every four years. Those fans diss soccer on a regular basis. They also understand that the USA is not among the elite. But come the World Cup, and everyone becomes a fan. Because they don’t pay attention for the most part, they don’t really know what “not among the elite” means. Like the players, they are fearless, and actually believe the U.S. will win, at least as each match approaches … I don’t know if even the most loony fair-weather fan thinks the U.S. can win it all. They know Ronaldo is tops, but they think Clint Dempsey is only slightly inferior. When the U.S. wins at the World Cup, people go bonkers. And in the buildup, they think of beating Portugal in 2002, about Landon Donovan against Algeria, about Rapinoe-to-Wambach against Brazil. They don’t think of those World Cups where the U.S. craps out.
Thus, it makes sense that American fans have adopted “I believe that we will win” as their battle cry.
Of course, when the U.S. is eliminated (and that could be sooner rather than later … it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they lose to both Portugal and Germany), those casual fans will forget about soccer again until 2018.
My prediction: if Ronaldo is hampered, the U.S. wins, 1-0. If Ronaldo is fine, the U.S. loses, 2-1.