SAO PAULO, Brazil – After arriving back at their rooms at about 4:45 a.m., victorious American players skipped breakfast Tuesday, slept late, went for medical tests and turned their attention to Portugal.
The United States opened its World Cup quest with a thrilling 2-1 Group G victory over nemesis Ghana on John Brooks’ 86th-minute goal Monday. But Americans Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Matt Besler and Alejandro Bedoya all got hurt to various degrees.
Altidore, taken off on a stretcher after straining his left hamstring, appears unlikely to play against the Portuguese on Sunday.
“We’ve got to see how he now reacts the next couple days,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We’re full of hope that he comes back still in this tournament.”
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Players hope to become the first U.S. group to win consecutive World Cup matches since a 2-0 start at the first tournament in 1930.
“Woke up today, this morning, and you look at your Instagram and Twitter and you see the videos that people posted,” Bedoya said of fans back home celebrating Brooks’ goal. “It’s really cool, and I’m sure everybody feeds off this energy.”
The match drew 11.09 million viewers on ESPN, a record for men’s soccer on the network. And after decades when U.S. soccer fans felt outnumbered — even at home games — players took notice of the raucous red, white and blue-clad crowd at Arena das Dunas in Natal.
Before the next match, the U.S. team needs to heal a little.
Captain Dempsey, a Sounders FC player who set the tone when he scored 30 seconds in, had his nose broken by a shin to the face from Ghana defender John Boye when they battled for the ball. Klinsmann said he expects Dempsey to play Sunday in Manaus.
“I don’t know how much a mask can protect him,” Klinsmann said. “It was tricky during the game. He barely could breathe.”
Klinsmann, a former standout player for Germany, said, “Clint has to shake it off. I broke mine three or four times, and it’s all right.”
Dempsey is likely to be paired up front either with Aron Johannsson, who was ineffective as Altidore’s replacement, or Chris Wondolowski.
Besler, like Altidore, went for an MRI. The defender felt soreness in his right leg in the first half and was replaced by Brooks for the second.
“Matt is no problem. All fine for the next game,” Klinsmann said.
Bedoya said he had a hip pointer, the reoccurrence of an old injury, then cramped up in his hamstring.
Portugal also has injury issues and will have to change the right side of its defense. Pepe was ejected in Monday’s 4-0 loss to Germany after he appeared to head butt Thomas Mueller. Right back Fabio Coentrao was taken off on a stretcher and forward Hugo Almeida limped off. Coentrao is out for the tournament.
Tuesday’s Group H games
Russia 1, South Korea 1
Aleksandr Kerzhakov scored in the 74th minute, with one of his first touches after coming on as a substitute, to earn Russia a draw.
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev spilled Lee Keun-ho’s speculative long-range shot into his own net to gift South Korea a 68th-minute lead in Cuiaba.
Belgium 2, Algeria 1
Belgium opened its Cup campaign with a comeback victory, as substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens scored in the second half in Belo Horizonte.