Varela and Cristiano Ronaldo rescued Portugal from World Cup elimination with a last-gasp header to force a 2-2 draw with the United States at the FIFA World Cup on Sunday.

Clint Dempsey looked like he had the winner when he scored in the 81st minute to put the U.S. up 2-1, but Ronaldo swung a perfect cross into the box and Varela connected with a powerful header to save Portugal's tournament. 

Before that, the Americans overturned an early Nani goal to lead 2-1, thanks to Dempsey and a rocket from Jermaine Jones.

The draw means Portugal is still alive with one match left to play, while the Americans will have to tie Germany in their next match to advance.

Key play

The match was over, and then Cristiano Ronaldo showed up. 

The FIFA player of the year broke down the right side in the final move of the game, with Portugal staring World Cup elimination in the face. He swung a perfect early cross into the box, and Varela connected, putting a header past Tim Howard to save Portugal's World Cup dreams, capping one of the most thrilling finishes you'll ever see at the World Cup. 

Man of the match

Jermaine Jones. The American midfielder evened the score with an absolute rocket, and exerted his influence throughout the match.

Fast fact

Varela's goal is the latest ever scored in regulation time at the World Cup (94:33). 

It was a good day for...

The United States. ...for 93 minutes.

It was a bad day for...

The United States. That last minute will haunt American dreams for a long time if the side doesn't progress to the Round of 16. 

They said it

"It’s clearly not a good result for us. The 2-2 doesn’t put us out of the World Cup mathematically, but it does leave us in a very difficult situation. Not just because of what we’ll need to do against Ghana, but also because we’ll need a favourable result from the Germany-United States game." — Portugal manager Paulo Bento

"We're a little disappointed, but still optimistic. We thought we'd put one foot in the Round of 16, but we are where we'd aimed to be before the tournament: going into the final game with a good chance of progressing." — U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard

What this means 

Portugal. Thirty seconds away from elimination, Portugal is back from the dead. But the team still has a lot of work to do to advance to the Round of 16. Portugal needs to beat Ghana on Thursday (CBC TV, cbc,ca/fifaworldcup, Noon ET) to have any shot of progressing. 

United States. Thirty seconds away from one of the greatest victories in the country's history, the Americans will be heartbroken at the last-second lapse. Nonetheless, the U.S. still has a very good shot at moving on. And it also sets up a nightmare scenario for FIFA, because if Germany and the U.S. draw on Thursday (CBC TV, cbc,ca/fifaworldcup, Noon ET), both teams will advance no matter the result in the other match. A loss by either side could see the loser out of the tournament. We have the very real danger of seeing a 90-minute kick-around session, along the lines of the infamous Germany-Austria "Non-aggression pact of Gijón" in the 1982 World Cup.