Thursday, June 25, 2009

USA deafeat Spain

david villaHere's a question that's been asked over the years: Why watch the FIFA Confederations Cup?

Here's the answer for the 2009 tournament: Because the USA are competing in it.

Many thought the Americans would learn their lesson from Group B and accept a rollover from the current best-ranked team in the world, Spain.

But as they proved in the last game of Group B against Egypt with a six-goal deficit in goal difference gone, once again the USA were not interested in reading the Hollywood script.

Ranked 13 places down from Spain in the official FIFA World Rankings, hardly anyone (except the extreme American optimist) expected the USA to win in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup in Bloemfontein.

But against all the odds, the USA managed to beat Spain 2-0, with goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey.

In a country that still calls the world's most popular sport "soccer" as opposed to "football," the win would undeniably work wonders for boosting its profile throughout the nation.

It will also give confidence to these American players, who can believe that anything is now achievable, having won against a team that hasn't lost since November 2006 and is currently meant to be the best in the world.

Speaking of being the best in the world, one thing the USA should be wary of is silly mistakes, inexperience, and allowing the opponent to dominate play.

It's not the most popular thing to write, but the gulf in class was apparent in Bloemfontein, and it was clear who was generally the better team.

Spain, with their star-studded cast of players, looked stronger out on the pitch, with slick passing slicing open the defence and providing more and more goal-scoring opportunities.

However, no matter how slick and accurate the Spanish passing was and how quickly they moved the ball, by the time of the second half, it seemed clear they wouldn't win.

In Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, the USA have arguably one of the finest shot-stoppers in the world, as the ex-Manchester United keeper was instrumental in shutting out the likes of David Villa and Fernando Torres.

Without Howard, the Americans would have that game lost, and the script would've run along nicely.

In the Spanish defence, despite having arguably one of the best back-lines in the world, with the likes of Real Madrid right-back Sergio Ramos and FC Barcelona legend Carles Puyol, a severe lack of concentration is what separated the wheat from the chaff.

Through excellent goalkeeping, desperately effective defending, and the ability to capitalise on opponent's mistakes, it was clear the USA did not need to be the better team.

In a country where "soccer" is not on top, and mostly everyone supports the favourite, the American players once again did not follow the script for the new Hollywood film "The 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup."

That is what makes this tournament so unexpectedly exciting—the underdog fights the odds, and wins.


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