It was a result that nobody expected, especially after the way they played in the first two games. But the U.S. men’s team heat Egypt 3-0 on Sunday, and that combined with Brazil’s 3-0 thrashing of Italy means the U.S. is in the Confederations Cup semi-finals where they will play Spain. Spain are the European champions who are on a 35 match unbeaten dating back to a November 2006 exhibition loss to Romania. On and by the way, Spain is the world’s top-ranked team.
Going into Sunday’s game, for the U.S. to reach the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, we needed to beat Egypt by at least three goals while the world champion Italians lost to Brazil by at least three. Astronomical odds, right? But with goals from Charlie Davies in the 21st minute and Michael Bradley in the 63rd the U.S. had a chance. When Clint Dempsey then broke a nine-month international scoreless streak in the 71st minute the United States an improbable 3-0 victory.
“All of the critics in America who said we were no good after losing to Italy and Brazil, let’s see what they say now,” Michael Bradley said.
This was a huge win for U.S. soccer on a very big stage. Since advancing to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, the U.S. team had been knocked out of the first round of the 2003 Confederations Cup, the 2006 World Cup and the 2007 Copa America. That streak has now ended.
“The first thing that was required was belief,” Landon Donovan said. “I can’t imagine many times that something like this has happened. When you think about it, to have advanced out of a group with Brazil, Italy and the African champions is phenomenal.”
What made the U.S. performance so enjoyable to watch was the heart and effort, that had been missing from the Italy and Brazil games. The U.S. is not as technically strong as the top 10 teams in the world. When we play them, we need to bring heart and effort to compensate for the lack of technical ability. Finally that heart and effort was on display against Egypt.
Does this performance, and the team’s advancement to the semis, change my opinion about what I wrote about the team after the Brazil game? The answer to that is no. I knew the U.S. were not playing up to their potential and that was what made the two games so frustrating to watch. But Sunday’s performance showed that with heart, effort and Landon Donavan we can compete on the international stage. Now can we do it again on Wednesday?