Cristiano Ronaldo was staring at the abyss, the abyss that waits gleefully to swallow you up, with criticism, ridicule and pain cranked up a few thousand notches more, before the superstar forward decided to, at the very least, prolong his fall into that abyss, by picking up the ball on the right, putting in a perfect-as-they-come cross for Silvestre Varela to head home easily to save Portugal's blushes against the USA.
Portugal were staring at an early elimination from the FIFA World Cup 2014, before Ronaldo's assist and Varela's goal in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time kept them in the tournament by the skin of their teeth. It was all going hunky dory for the Portuguese, who opened the scoring via Nani, with the winger, playing a much better game this time around, benefitting from a hashed clearance from Geoff Cameron before thumping the ball into the roof of the net from nine yards.
That goal came in just the fifth minute, and from there the pace of the game refused to relent, as end-to-end action ensued until minute 90 + those five minutes of stoppage time.
The USA had plenty of opportunities to equalise, but either goalkeeper Beto or the defenders were there to thwart them, with Michael Bradley, in particular, left to wonder how on earth he did not make it 1-1, as Ricardo Costa made a heroic clearance off the line from a six-yard strike.
Portugal had plenty of chances to put the game to bed as well, with Nani coming close on a couple of occasions as did Eder, who again had to come in early in the game owing to an injury to a striker – this time Helder Postiga.
However, Tim Howard was also in great form in goal, and the USA were helped by the fact that Ronaldo had not laced on his shooting boots in Manaus. Time and again, the Portugal forward was presented with decent opportunities, be that strikes from distance, inside the box, or headers, but every time he failed to find the mark.
A glaring miss came a little while before the equaliser, with Ronaldo firing the ball abysmally wide, when he just had the goalkeeper to beat and also Nani available to slip in for a possible tap in.
Portugal would be made to pay for all of those misses, with Jermaine Jones scoring a peach of an equaliser in the 64th minute, stroking the ball home from 22 yards into the side-netting after the ball came out to him from a corner.
The game was still perfectly poised, with the result likely to go either way, and USA's main man at this tournament, in the absence of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey struck what looked like being the winner, stomaching home a cross from Graham Zusi on 81 minutes.
Portugal huffed and puffed in the final nine minutes, but USA held their own well enough, and it looked like the match was set to end 2-1 in the Americans' favour, meaning last 16 qualification for Jurgen Klinsmann's men and a nightmare exit for Portugal, as even Ronaldo's body language suggested the game was up.
However, quite literally the final attack of the game provided a tournament-saving goal for Portugal, courtesy Ronaldo and Varela. There were no celebrations, though, probably not even too much relief, as the Portugal players trudged off the ground with a deflated feeling, knowing full well that even if they beat Ghana handsomely in their final Group G game on Thursday – a far from easy proposition -- it will not be enough if USA and Germany draw their final game.
Meanwhile, in the second match on Sunday, Algeria brought out their attacking prowess into the forefront with a brilliant 4-2 victory over South Korea in Group H to put themselves in pole position to make it to the last 16 along with the already-qualified Belgium. Islam Slimani opened the scoring after latching onto a simple over the top pass to put the ball into the net, before Rafi Halliche headed home in the 28th minute, just two minutes after the opener, to make it 2-0. Algeria went into halftime 3 goals to the good, as Abdelmoumene Djabou struck in the 38th minute.
South Korea pulled a goal back via Son Heung-Min early in the second half, but Yacine Brahimi restored the three-goal lead just past the hour mark, with South Korea skipper Koo Ja-Cheol grabbing a late consolation.