By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil reverted a two-goal disadvantage to defeat the United States 3-2 in the Confederations Cup final. The match was held at Coca-Cola Park, formerly known as Ellis Park Stadium, in Johannesburg, South Africa last Sunday, June 28th.
The USA team’s presence in the final was the biggest surprise of the competition. Most soccer fans bet on a Brazil vs. Spain final, but last week the U.S. squad ended Spain’s fifteen-match winning streak with a 2-0 victory in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. The European team entered the competition as the favorite, only to be eliminated by USA’s unexpected performance.
The match against Brazil was the first-ever final in a major FIFA tournament for the U.S. squad. Just as it did last week, USA’s performance exceeded all expectations. In the first half, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan scored in the 10th and 27th minutes, respectively, opening 2-0 against five-time world champions Brazil.
In the first moments of the second half, however, Brazil reacted. Striker Luís Fabiano scored in the first minute, shooting the ball between defender Jay DeMerit’s legs and tricking goalkeeper Tim Howard. Brazil kept pressing, but Howard frustrated every attempt by the South American offensives.
The 2-1 disadvantage lasted until the 29th minute, when Brazil finally found the net and got the equalizer. Once again Luís Fabiano was the scorer, this time heading the rebound of a missed Robinho goal kick.
The match was tied 2-2, and the U.S. team held on to the score with everything they had. The North-American defense managed to neutralize Brazilian attacks until the 39th minute, when defender and captain Lúcio scored, with a header, after a corner kick.
Even with the defeat, the U.S. team left South Africa with the feeling of accomplishment. The campaign in the 2009 Confederations Cup was the best-ever performance for the USA in a FIFA competition. After the match, coach Bob Bradley said that playing in the competition was a great experience and that no one should doubt USA’s performance in next year’s World Cup. “The feeling is a mix of great disappointment but also great pride. I think people around the world see that we have a good team, we have good players and hopefully we can continue to step forward.”
This was also the first time that Brazilian captain Lúcio raised a trophy for the Brazilian national team. Brazil has previously claimed two other Confederations Cups: in 1997 and 2005.
Of all players in the match, four claimed individual awards in the competition: U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard received the Golden Glove – best goalkeeper prize, Brazilian striker Luís Fabiano was awarded the Golden Boot – top scorer prize, Brazilian midfielder Kaká got the Golden Ball – best player prize, while U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey was awarded the Bronze Ball as the third best player.
“Everything doesn’t always work out how you want it to, but no matter what I’m proud of what these guys accomplished and it was great to be a part of it.” said Bronze Ball winner Dempsey, U.S. midfielder.