Today, the United States Men’s Soccer Team will compete in their first international final in a FIFA tournament in the history of their program when they take on Brazil in the 2009 Confederations Cup Final in South Africa. BlueClaws pitcher Heitor Correa, who pitched a complete game yesterday and South Atlantic League President Eric Krupa are from Brazil and are surely interested observers for the 2:30 pm game.
How did they get here? Well before the incredible 3-0 victory against Egypt and the virtue of having Brazil beat Italy by the same score, the United States had to qualify for this tournament, and that began two years ago. Each confederation holds a tournament and the winners are granted a spot into the Confederations Cup, one year before the World Cup in the WC host city. The United States erased a 1-0 half-time deficit way back in 2007 and beat Mexico 2-1 to win the Gold Cup (CONCACAF Champions) and earn a spot in the 2009 Confederations Cup. Benny Feilhaber, also born in Brazil, scored a magnificent game-winner (Link here).
The United States also defeated Spain this past week 2-0, who hadn’t lost since November 2006 and had been setting the world on fire, winning the Euro (which qualified them to play in the Confederations Cup) and attaining the world’s #1 ranking. The win for the United States was one of their most famous in their history…Probably behind victories against Portugal and Mexico in the 2002 World Cup, Columbia in 1994 and 1950 against England.
The game today would be a tremendous result, and for the first time, glory in an international final, but it will be no easy task against a Brazillian side that is one of the best in the world. Also, this same Brazil team embarassed the Americans in this same tournament 3-0. The United States will be without their star midfielder and coaches son Michael Bradley, as he was harshly handed a red card in the dying moments of the game against Spain and is suspended for the final.
Keys to the game? Don’t make mistakes…Pretty dificult, but even the smallest of mistakes (like what DaMarcus Beasley did the first time agaisnt Brazil 90 yards from goal) can lead to goals for the quick and creative Brazillians. Don’t give space…Guys like Kaka and Luis Fabiano, who has been amazing all tournament, only need a sliver of space to let rip on a shot that will reach the back of the net, the United States will be smart to play right up in their shorts and deny the Brazillians space in the middle of the pitch. Free kicks are key…The United States have some nice players in the air, like Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu, the Brazillians have masters of taking free kicks (evidenced by their first goal agaisnt the Americans in the first game) the game can be won or lost on free kicks. Replacing Bradley…Since bursting on to the scene with the highest goal total of any American in a club season in Europe two years ago, Bradley has been a nice central midfielder for the USMNT. His prescence will be sorely missed. Benny Feilhaber who was in great favor in 2007, see the goal above, fell out of favor, see Darby County’s 2008 season results, and is back in favor and will likely start in his place. Feilhaber has to try and not do too much and rather error on the side of caution. The goal may be to defend and try and pounce on Brazil, maybe looking to win 1-0.
If needed, Freddy Adu may finally see action off the bench if the US needs a goal. He and Altidore helped the US U-20 squad defeat Brazil 2-1 a few years ago and it could serve as a nice opportunity before the Gold Cup, where Adu is sure to start.
Prediction: 3-1 Brazil..They’re simply too good, world class at every position, the United States may hang for a bit purely on adreneline, but in the end, Brazil is too good. I think they get out 2-0 before the United States pulls one back, only to allow a third shortly thereafter.
Go USA…Don’t Tread