Last-second escape act
Varela's goal snatches win away from U.S.
MANAUS, Brazil — They were less than 30 seconds away.
The Americans were about to romp into the round of 16 at the World Cup, about to walk off with their first come-from-behind win at soccer’s showcase. About to advance with a game to spare. About to win consecutive World Cup games for the first time since 1930.
But they wilted in the Amazon heat and humidity.
Varela’s goal on a diving header off Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross on the game’s last play gave Portugal a 2-2 tie Sunday on an exhausting night in the rainforest capital.
“We had one foot in the door,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Now, the Americans may need at least a point Thursday against Germany to advance to the knockout stage. They could advance with a loss, depending on the result of the Portugal-Ghana game that will be played simultaneously.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to look at the positives: We got a point,” American captain Clint Dempsey said. “We put in a good performance. I thought we played better than the last game. I thought we moved the ball better. I thought we created more chances. Just unlucky.”
Germany and the Americans both have four points, but the Germans have a better goal difference. Ghana, which lost, 2-1, to the U.S., has one point, as does Portugal.
The U.S. fell behind early, when Geoff Cameron’s wayward clearance gifted Nani a fifth-minute goal.
But Jermaine Jones’ exquisite 28-yard shot tucked inside the far post in the 64th minute and Dempsey’s goal off his stomach in the 86th put the Americans ahead, 2-1. A screaming, pro-American majority in the crowd of 40,123 was ready to party late into the steamy night.
Then Varela beat Cameron to the cross, deflating the red, white and blue-clad fans.
“It was unfortunate,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said, “An amazing game, amazing performance by our guys. Nothing more that you can ask for. We just go it the tougher way. We’ve got to go and we’ve got to beat Germany, get a result against Germany, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Just like four years ago, the Americans relied on a late push. But they couldn’t sustain it.
Now, it’s onto Recife. Nothing is decided. They could move on. Or after all this, they could be sent home.
Belgium 1, Russia 0
RIO DE JANEIRO — Teenage forward Divock Origi scored in the 88th minute as Belgium beat Russia to secure a spot in the second round at the World Cup.
Belgium struggled to find a way through the Russian defense until the dying stages of the Group H match, with Kevin Mirallas hitting the post with a free kick in the 84th and Eden Hazard sending a shot wide before Origi’s close-range right-foot winner in front of more than 73,819 people at the Maracana.
Belgium has six points, and leads the group after opening with a 2-1 win over Algeria.
Algeria 4, South Korea 2
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — First-half goals by Islam Slimani and Rafik Halliche helped Algeria to a victory over South Korea, leaving the African nation second in Group H with one match left to play.
Algeria led, 3-0, at halftime, but withstood a stronger South Korean second-half performance to claim its first World Cup win since 1982.
Slimani scored at 26 minutes and, two minutes after the restart, defender Rafik Halliche headed in a corner. Algeria made it 3-0 in the 38th when Abdelmoumene Djabou side-footed home.
South Korea started positively after the break, and got a goal back in the 48th minute when Son Heung-min shot through the legs of Rais Mbolhi.
Yacini Brahimi then scored for Algeria before South Korean captain Koo Ja-cheol recorded his team’s second goal.