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US Advances Against All Odds

Odds are tricky. In math (well, more specifically, statistical probability theory), the “odds”  in favor of a specific event occurring are difficult to calculate. In fact, some of the formulas used for solving complex odds equations are confusing enough to make one’s head explode – sort of like the US MNT’s play recently has made my head explode.

The odds the US would advance to the Semifinal of the Confederations Cup yesterday were not just low – they were infinitesimal. Not only did the US have to beat Egypt (who had lost to Brazil 4-3 and beaten Italy 1-0) by three goals, but they also had to get lucky and have Brazil beat reigning World Cup champ Italy by three goals. Sound probable?

I didn’t think so either. Yet, after a wacky Sunday slate of games, the US has advanced to the Semis where they will take on world #1 Spain. How did the improbable become not only probable, but assured? Well, both Brazil and the US unbelievably blanked their rivals 3-0, and the US turned a disappointing tourney into a historic opportunity.

Against Egypt, the US made three major changes, including Guzan in place of Howard, and all three paid off. Donovan continued to play with hustle and flair and Michael Bradley kept his head level. The defense played with determination and unity, and the boneheaded plays that had cost US dearly in the first two games were absent. It was a new team.

Egypt looked more than frustrated – they looked homicidal. Their downfall was their own fault and due to huge defensive mistakes. Davies’ goal never should have happened, and both MB’s and Dempsey’s could have been prevented. But, in the end, Egypt couldn’t find any chemistry and the US simply overwhelmed their defense.

Meanwhile, Brazil took a huge 3-0 lead against Italy and then held on to help the US advance. All in all, it was an amazing Sunday for US soccer and the Egypt game was an instant classic. The team finally played with some coherence, and the result they achieved was nothing short of a miracle. The odds may have been against the US…

But they overcame them. Now, can they overcome #1 Spain? We shall have to wait and see. But, win or lose, just escaping the group round is a big overall victory for the US in this tourney. Hopefully, the victory over Egypt will make the US more confident not only against Spain this week, but also in 2010 in South Africa.