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Spain’s EPL Stars Shut Out In South Africa


Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semifinal between the United States and Spain had David v. Goliath written all over it. Coasting to the semis with three wins out of three, it looked like Spain was about to teach the US a lesson in tiki-taka.

With the US advancing to the semis after shipping six goals to Italy and Brazil, the drawbacks of a two group, eight team tournament were pretty clear.  How a side that was blown out in two games and won one deserved to go through may not seem right, but hey it’s group play, and it’s not like Italy and Egypt did themselves any favors.

For European champions Spain, with the flash of Liverpool’s Fernando Torres and Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, and a partial spine of Barcelona in Xavi, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, this should’ve been their 16th straight victory, and a record-setting 37-match unbeaten streak.

Instead, the US rendered Spain impotent, thanks to stellar netminding from Everton’s Tim Howard.  The scoring came courtesy of  Fulham’s Clint Dempsey, and Villareal’s loaned-out striker, Jozy Altidore.

How a squad could look so horrible against an aging Italy and look so good against a pretty side like Spain isn’t that surprising.  Anyone who’s watched Arsenal fail to finish against a mid-table team will tell you that even the least technical and lumbering of sides can win if they’re organized and take advantage of mistakes.

And Spain’s mistakes cost them.  Altidore’s goal in the 27th minute showed how strong the youngster is, but also made Joan Capdevila look like a limpid rag doll.  Dempsey’s goal in the 74th made the Spanish backline look comical, from Pique’s deflection of Landon Donovan’s cross off his heel, to Sergio Ramos’ touch to setup the Fulham striker for the US’s second goal.

The big names like Torres and Fabregas were shut down by the lesser-known names like Dempsey and Howard, and it’s hard not think of Fabregas’ Gunners if you saw Spain today.  So fluid and dominant in posession, La Roja look like Barcelona, with a few Premier League stars and a couple of Merengues at the back (and of course the Davids: Silva and Villa).  But, like Arsenal, they lacked that final ball, and mistakes in defense hurt them dearly.

What can you take from this upset?  Perhaps not much; though the US will ride a wave of euphoria until next summer’s World Cup, but whether or not the they can achieve results from the same tactics in a bigger and deeper tournament remains to be seen.  For Spain, it’s merely a blip.  It may put Vicente del Bosque in the papers a bit more for the wrong reasons, but with Italy on the wrong side of the hill, Spain still is the team to beat in Europe.  It does however, show what you can do against the top-ranked team in the world if you can contain Xavi.

While there’s really nothing else to watch between seasons, the Confederations Cup’s perceived relevance is artificial at best.  New Zealand and South Africa’s inclusion, as representatives of Oceania and the host of the 2010 World Cup, respectively, does little to set pulses racing.  But the prospect of the United States possibly facing Brazil in a final may be enough to get Americans into football and away from sah-ker.  That is, if South Africa don’t pull off an upset of their own on Thursday.

Spain 0 – 2 United States [FIFA]

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  1. gary

    June 26, 2009 at 12:26 am

    also apparently NOT giving props to the appropriate team for solid play. it’s typical euro-centric talk about football to downplay anything good the US National team does. The tone of your post sucks.

    It’s an inconsistent team, for sure, but come on

    “What comes from this…perhaps not much.” And, of course, the match is deemed “irrelevant”. TYPICAL. CRAP.

    I love EPL. I read it everyday to keep up on football news while I live in South Korea. So keep up the good work and please do stop catering to the spectacular tone of euro discourse about the sport. What happens around the world has relevance.

    My opinion: football is about exploiting weaknesses, taking advantage of mistakes, and solid marking on defense. If you can get a stellar goaltending performance, then that’s an added bonus. And teams that consistently perform with at least 3 out of 4 of these win games. That’s what the US did. Excellent win.

    The point: The US can compete at an international level against any team on any day. We have the talent, though not the superstars. The US is inconsistent.

    In addition, this is not an “irrelevant” match for Spain. They lost their first game in 16 and have now lost their 35 game unbeaten streak. TO THE AMERICANS. It is funny. And apropos, I think. Welcome, in other words.

  2. Roger

    June 25, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Arrogant super yank,Kartik again mouthing off about how bad Europe is and how terrible England is. If I wanted to read your anti England rants and Yank/Latin power blogs I would go to MLS Talk. Thank goodness captain america eplnfl seems to be missing.

    The problem for American lovers of the English game is we are going to have to put up with US Soccer and US Soccer snob arrogance for the next year for this. The game was total and complete fluke. Spain would beat USA 9 times out of 10 and I say that as an American.

    • James

      June 25, 2009 at 12:30 pm


  3. Mike

    June 25, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Let’s put this in some historical context: Was it the greatest win in U.S. soccer history?

    • AtlantaPompey

      June 25, 2009 at 11:05 am

      No. Beating Brazil 1-0 in the 1999 Gold Cup Final was more important because we lifted a trophy after that one. If we beat Brazil in the Confed Cup Final, then it will replace that match as the greatest win in US soccer history. Beating England in the 1950 World Cup, while shocking and noteworthy, does not rise to this level because it didn’t result in a trophy.

  4. Rob

    June 25, 2009 at 6:49 am

    I would like to see Onewyu move to an EPL side, but I don’t think its going to happen. I’m just curious as to how he would perform, being such a solid part every game in the air for the US backline.

    • Eladio

      June 25, 2009 at 8:44 am

      Onewyu to the EPL? You do remember his stint at Newcastle where he looked completely lost and couldn’t even come close to matching the speed of the EPL?

  5. uh?

    June 24, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    this blog is pathetic, no props at all to the us. gaffer you live in america and you could care less about our national team.

    • yup

      June 25, 2009 at 2:25 am

      I was about to post something very similar.

      This is one of my favorite blogs, but this is ridiculous. I might as well go listen to Jim Rome.

      • The Gaffer

        June 25, 2009 at 6:47 am

        Guys, all of the Confederations Cup coverage is on our sister site, Major League Soccer Talk, at There, we’ve had daily coverage as well as several podcasts and more. I’ve also been twittering about the Confederations Cup all week long at

        Congratulations to the United States. But EPL Talk is all about the English Premier League. The majority of our readers are from England. So the most logical place for Confederations Cup coverage is MLS Talk. Hope you understand.

        The Gaffer

  6. Mark Flint

    June 24, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Barcelona dominated Man U, while Spain spent the day knocking the ball around the goal box.

  7. MM

    June 24, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    this happens, just like Manchester United losing to Barcelona

    • Jay

      June 24, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      Get outta here.

  8. MM

    June 24, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    congrats to USA. Spain will rebound.

    • RaiderRich

      June 24, 2009 at 8:52 pm

      Thank god international tournaments are decided by one game rather than aggregate.

  9. RaiderRich

    June 24, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    In the immortal words of Mario Rosenstock…

    “Shut up, Spain!”

  10. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    European nations have continued to struggle in competitions outside Europe. Today the Spanish once again proved that Europe’s best cannot cope with

    1- speed from the opposition
    2- physical play
    3- altitude
    4- cold weather
    5- smaller pitch sizes
    6- hostile crowds

    As I said on our sister site, MLS Talk yesterday several factors pointed to Spain not performing at the high level anticipated by the European press. Even if they had gotten by us I can guarantee you they would have been comprehensively beaten in the final.

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