Brazil 3, USA 2
For a while there, we had the mighty Brazilians on the ropes. It was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it? Just like the last time, the U.S. gave up three goals in losing to Brazil. Unlike the last time, we emerged with some glory instead of embarrassing ourselves. The game really turned when the U.S. gave up Luís Fabiano’s goal right after the second half started. If the U.S. had held out another 15 minutes, the Brazilians probably would have gotten frustrated and taken themselves out of the game. What are you gonna do, though? Jay DeMerit and Tim Howard were perfectly positioned. Luís Fabiano just made an amazing shot with his left foot that found the opposite corner.
Silver linings? Historically, the Confed Cup winners have a dismal track record when they play at the World Cup the following year. And winning the trophy might have raised expectations unrealistically for the U.S. team at next year’s World Cup.
Mostly, though, the positives from this tournament can be found on the field. The victory over Spain gives us a scalp that we didn’t have before. Tim Howard, who won the trophy for best goalkeeper in a tournament that featured giants like Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, proved that on his best day he’s as good as any keeper in the world. Clint Dempsey (the pride of Nacogdoches) broke his national-team scoring drought in a big way. Jozy Altidore looks like a striker who can trouble even the best defenses. Team USA answered a number of questions about who they should field and how they should line up. The dismal performances of 10 days ago are a distant memory. I won’t call Team USA’s performance heroic; the real heroes in soccer are the Iranian players who risked their careers and their safety to support a cause they believe in. But USA played with courage and skill, and now fans here have reason to look forward to World Cup 2010.
Before the game started, there was a moving ceremony in honor of Marc-Vivien Foé, a midfielder for Cameroon who collapsed and died of a heart attack during a game against Colombia in the 2003 Confederations Cup. The tribute included a statement from Foé’s 14-year-old son. I couldn’t find video of that, but I can link to Gabriele Marcotti reporting on South Africa’s neutral fans lining up behind Team USA, which is also something new for us. And a USA-loving English soccer writer chastises his countrymen for looking down on American soccer.