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FIFA Confederations Cup

Confederations Cup: Why the US Has A Chance


Spain is on a record tying unbeaten run and faces a US team that suffered their worst ever defeat to Brazil last week. But this match isn’t as easy a call as many pundits would make it out to be.

While the Spanish are a formidable side, perhaps the best in the world currently, they don’t have the traditional pedigree of Brazil or Italy two teams the US struggled against last week.

The Spanish continue to amaze but have seemed at times tired and frustrated in this tournament. The entire Spanish team plays at top European clubs and they have been busy since August. A potential world record breaking 36th straight game without a loss beckons for Spain, if they remain focused.

David Villa, Fernando Torres and Xavi remain in good form. Spain has also not conceded a goal in this tournament.

But some potential pitfalls do present itself for the Spanish.

–         Only once has a European nation won a FIFA event outside of Europe. That was the 2001 Confederations Cup in Korea/Japan won by France. Denmark’s 1995 King Fahd Cup victory was officially recognized after the event had concluded.

–         The US played above all reasonable expectations in previous knock out matches in FIFA events: the 1994 World Cup 2nd round saw the USA hold eventual champion Brazil scoreless for 77 minutes before wilting. The 1995 Copa America semifinal featured a game US team that again gave Brazil everything they could handle before finally succumbing 1-0.  In the 1999 Confederations Cup semifinal the USA held Mexico scoreless at Azteca for 97 minutes before giving up a Golden Goal to Cuauhtémoc Blanco. The US beat Mexico in the 2002 World Cup second round and then outplayed eventual finalist Germany in an unlucky 1-0 Quarterfinal loss.

–         The USA was 7-13-1 against FIFA top 5 ranked teams under Bruce Arena, Steve Sampson and Bora Milutinovic. Under Bob Bradley the USA is 0-5-1 against FIFA Top 5 nations. In other words either the US is much less competitive against top teams under Bradley or the law of averages means the US will win this game.

–         To go along with European struggles outside Europe, Portugal whose style of play in 2002 was similar to Spain today was stunned by the USA at Korea/Japan 02 giving up three goals in 33 minute period of American glory.

Last year’s friendly in Santander right before the start of Euro 2008 was a surprisingly competitive contest. In that game Freddy Adu dominated the midfield early and allowed the Americans to keep possession for much of the first half. But Adu was subbed out by Bradley at halftime and his replacement DaMarcus Beasley was awful. .

The US missed a golden chance served up by Eddie Lewis for Eddie Johnson early in the second half and gradually the possession and chances became one sided. Spain eventually won 1-0 while sitting several regulars. But that first half with Adu pulling the strings showed what the US was capable of on the big stage.

Prior to Bob Bradley’s tenure the United States had a history of rising to the occasion against top national teams. When the US lost to top teams under Arena or Sampson often times the games were ultra competitive. But under Bradley that has simply not been the case.

Will the US rise to occasion tomorrow? My guess is that the US will play very well for a half if the tactical formation is reasonable and not too defensive and then collapse in the 2nd half. But regardless of what we are projecting this is a massive opportunity for our national team.

We have the opportunity to reach a major non CONCACF tournament final for the first time in our history. Regardless of our thoughts about Bob Bradley and some of the current selection of players we must all rally around the flag/US Soccer shield tomorrow and cheer our boys on to victory.

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  1. LFC USA

    June 26, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Well Kartik I guess you are some sort of genius. Or just an incredible homer who got lucky in calling this. In any event enjoy your glory.

  2. Aaron Baker

    June 26, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Hey Todd Boss- Are you still in Outer Space or have you returned back to Earth yet??????

  3. Ian

    June 25, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Oh man you came the closest to calling this! I think re-reading this you wanted to pick the USA but decided out of respectability you wouldn’t. Don’t give in to peer pressure next time, Kartik!


    June 24, 2009 at 6:41 pm


  5. jim

    June 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Hah, I love it when those that were SO confident that the U.S. would lose are proven wrong…..goes to show, anything is possible in this game.

  6. Peter Houghton

    June 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Kartik, you are a fair and balance writer and I appreciate this piece as well as all of your opnions on US Soccer. I may not always agree, but hey what fun would that be.

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Thanks Jason!

  8. Jason Gatties

    June 24, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Unlike some other bloggers who I can’t stand, your articles are always on point. Keep up the good work. COME ON YOU YANKS.

  9. Yankeehooligan

    June 24, 2009 at 8:25 am

    “Under Bob Bradley the USA is 0-5-1 against FIFA Top 5 nations.”

    That says it all. But I agree with Jason. Bradley needs to stop trying to get cute with the formations and to put players in their natural positions.

  10. eplnfl

    June 24, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Well said quakes

  11. bayou

    June 24, 2009 at 7:41 am

    I think this game is going to be one of such diverse styles of play that anything is possible. Spain historically has dropped the ball late in tournaments (Euro 2008 being the exception) and not living up to its hype. That being said, this Spanish team is young and by all appearances very hungry. As a Liverpool fan I’ve watched Torres, Alonso, Reina, Arbeloa, and Riera (Liverpool, sadly, isn’t big on British-born players) and I worry for the US, I really do. If the US comes out playing scared it’s game over, they won’t stand a chance. And I agree with Soccer Jersey, an early goal would be devastating. But if the US comes out like they don’t know they’re supposed to lose, well then there’s a damn good shot that we can take it to Spain.

  12. Soccer Jerseys

    June 24, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I’m hoping for a US win today, my only fear is that they give up an early goal.

  13. B.K.

    June 24, 2009 at 1:35 am

    Mistake in the article…it’d be their 36th straight match UNBEATEN and 16th straight win if they do defeat us.

  14. Jason

    June 24, 2009 at 1:34 am

    In my opinion, the less Bradley tries to out-think this match, the better chance we have. Run out the 4-4-2 with the “core group”, with Davies and Altidore up top, and see what happens.

    All theses 4-3-3’s and 4-5-1’s with constant line up shuffling is half the problem. The team is clearly comfortable in the 4-4-2, and that will be half the battle.

    Also, I think some people are worried about us not going forward. Donovan and Dempsey WILL go forward, and if there are 2 strikers up top, the US will be offensive. The bigger problem will be, how much of the ball the are allowed to see.

  15. Ben

    June 24, 2009 at 1:07 am

    If the USA somehow manages to win this game, it will send shockwaves through the football world.

    Egypt defeat Italy? Impossible
    Brazil thump Italy? Impossible
    USA defeat white hot Egypt? Impossible

    USA defeat Juggernaut Spain? Impossible

    Rally round the flag boys!

  16. quakesin2kNever

    June 24, 2009 at 12:41 am

    The Three Lions: “We’re setting ourselves up for a massive disappointment.”

    You have been living in England for too long, my friend! Not winning the game you invented since 1966 will get you used to being disappointed.

  17. quakesin2kNever

    June 24, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Todd Boss: ” I can remember how many times they cry like girls because “The German are so big and mean”, “the Italians knocked down my teeth”, bla, bla, bla, What is the excuse going to be this time?”

    Actually the “excuse” against Germany was Austin Frings used his hand to knock away a for sure goal and the ref missed it.

    We didn’t need an “excuse” against Italy in 2006 because we actually played the best game against them out of any team in that tournament. A 1-1 tie is nothing to be ashamed of playing man down against the team that won the tournament.

    “Too bad, tomorrow will bring everyone back down to Earth. ”

    Nobody is expecting us to beat Spain so I’m not sure what you are getting at. Even if we lose 2-0 or 3-0 it will still be a good learning experience.

  18. The Three Lions

    June 23, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I’ve seen this so many times back in England. One win doesn’t make you world beaters. We’re setting ourselves up for a massive disappointment. Unless they play completely negative football and hope to win on penalties we have zero chance of beating Spain head to head. They are possibly the best team in the world right now and frankly we aren’t. Nor is England Still this is a good test and even in defeat I hope Bradley takes copious notes. Spain will play in the manner we must one day hope to aspire to. Capello for all the good work he’s done should take notes also.

  19. Todd Boss

    June 23, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Be realistic people. The United States is a bunch of little mice when they play real soccer powers. Don’t forget that they got trashed in the first 2 games and if they went ahead is only because Brazil overpowered Italy and Egypt started celebrating way to early. I watched the game and I saw a lucky American side scoring a couple of lucky late goals. Spain is going to bring them back to reality. US are a mediocre soccer team. They only have a chance with teams from CONCACAF since most of the tournaments are hosted in the US and the referees are very fast to give them penalty kicks for non-existent fouls. Even Kartik admitted in one blog post that the Gold Cup win last time was tainted because the US got a PK in four straight matches and all of them were questionable. But now Kartik, one of the best soccer bloggers around has done an about face and is leading this jingoistic charge. Too bad, tomorrow will bring everyone back down to Earth.

    I can remember how many times they cry like girls because “The German are so big and mean”, “the Italians knocked down my teeth”, bla, bla, bla, What is the excuse going to be this time?

    • Eric T

      December 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

      Atta boy, you were right on with that analysis……

  20. eplnfl

    June 23, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    We can only hope Kartik. Go USA! I will accept a third place finish as a victory.

  21. Jack(from Vegas)

    June 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I think that friendly results can be very misleading. I think the US needs a player in midfield that will help us maintain what little possession we will have. We need atleast one of the following(adu, torres, feilhaber). I would like to see 2 of those 3. One thing that Bob Bradley doesn’t quite seem to understand is that when you possess the ball it is very hard to give up goals. I also hope that Bocanegra isn’t playing vs. spain. A win would be nice, but I would be happy with just playing well.

  22. Kevin_Amold

    June 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Exactly. It’s time for the US to protect the Shield. Both fans and players. Believe me, I’ll resume my skepticism as soon as we get bounced from this tournament. Until then, I’m on board.

  23. Fred

    June 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    ” The USA was 7-13-1 against FIFA top 5 ranked teams under Bruce Arena, Steve Sampson and Bora Milutinovic. Under Bob Bradley the USA is 0-5-1 against FIFA Top 5 nations. In other words either the US is much less competitive against top teams under Bradley or the law of averages means the US will win this game.”

    Well buddy, I think it is clearly the former and Bradley as this stat proves is totally outmatched at a high level in a way previous US coaches haven’t been.

  24. Tom

    June 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    The US team didn’t struggle against Italy until the 2nd half, when we were a man down. Until that time the game was at least even and we had a legitimate chance to win.

  25. Ace

    June 23, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    good write up. but this us team as proven last week isn’t at the caliber of the ones you talk about.

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