It's all over now but the celebrating - on Brazil's part. The South American powerhouse needed a 3-goal second-half to overcome a surprising US effort this past Sunday that saw the Yanks leading 2-nil at half-time. If there's anything the world soccer community can take away from this remarkably exciting FIFA tournament, it's that the USA's capabilities are slowly but surely improving.
A stunning 1st half by the Americans saw Clint Dempsey's lightly-hit volley help another fantastic Jonathan Spector cross into the far netting for the US's first shocking goal.
Brazil had some chances but Spector played amazingly well against the dangerous Robinho on one wing while Oneywu and Demerit helped thwart attacks in the middle of the box. In the 26th minute, a beautiful fast-paced counter-attack, started and finished by Landon Donovan, put the USA in a 2-0 lead.
Diehard soccer fans, however, knew that a 2-nil lead is the most worrisome lead in futbol and these concerns proved to have merit.
The second half started horrendously for the Yanks as Brazil's Luis Fabiano scored a quick turn-around shot from dead-center on the 18-yard line. Just that quickly, the lead was cut in half and major cracks started to show at the seams as the Brazilian attack grew stronger and stronger. Kaka was robbed later in the half when his header went over the line only to be punched out by US Goalkeeper Tim Howard (replays clearly showed a goal) but Brazil eventually equalized on a flurry of headers with Fabiano netting his second to knot the game at 2-2. Lucio put the game away for good with a powerful header off a corner-kick and while the USA mustered one last headed chance on goal, it was all over.
Some post-game thoughts:
- The US team needs more depth. Admittedly much of the problem stemmed from the controversial Red Card given to Michael Bradley late (87th minute) in the Spain game, forcing US Coach Bob Bradley to start Benny Feilhaber, a usual mid-game substitute.
- Some key players for the USA in this near-upset, included: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies (who needs experience but whose pace and energy were breathtaking), Tim Howard (who won FIFA's top GK award for the tournament), and Jonathan Spector.
- US Players who didn't play terribly well and underwhelmed critics, include: Jozy Altidore (looked lazy and lost the ball several times on his first touch despite a promising start to the match), Sacha Kljestan (who was totally sloppy and seemed overwhelmed), and Jonathan Bornstein (another sub who just didn't add anything to the attack when it was most desperately needed - he repeatedly would blunt US attacks but stopping a quick break to pass the ball backwards for little apparent reason).
- That quick second-half goal was the deal-breaker. Viewers got the impression that if the USA could've held off that 1st inevitable Brazilian goal for a while longer, they may have been able to escape with this victory.
- This match showed that while the USA can, on occasion, hang with the world powers of futbol, they still lack technical proficiency in the midfield (as well as confidence on the ball under pressure). Had the USA been able to play a more controlling style in the middle of the pitch, Brazil would have had far less chances and possibly become frustrated. As it was, the US turned the ball over to their opponents far too readily and (unfortunately) the results reflected that fact.
Only time will tell.