Thursday, June 25, 2009

Confederations Cup Review: Spain 0 USA 2

"This is no fantasy - no careless product of wild imagination." - Marlon Brando

You could argue that the Confederations Cup is the least important of the senior competitions and had last night's game been a World Cup match, Spain would have ramped up the intensity and pulled the win out of their collective behinds. You could also say that the European champions had a bad day at the office and on any other occasion would have done to the US what pretty much everyone expected and reduce them to a smear. And you'd be right.

But these factors don't tell even half the story behind the Yank's win over Spain so it would be unfair to dwell on them further. If you did not see the game be under no illusion - this was not a freak result made up of a bizarre set of circumstances that contrived to deny a Spanish victory. The US won this game fair and square.

It would be difficult to find anyone who would argue that, player for player, Spain are the better side. I can't be alone in the belief that the current Spanish team is one of the best international football teams ever. I still believe that now. This makes the US' victory even more special and even more important.

In the midfield, Dempsey and Donovan provided attacking dynamism, while the excellent Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark disrupted Spain's diamond formation just enough to keep them off balance. There were times when you felt that Spain were about to swamp the US but in fact, looking back, they were reduced to only a few chances which Tim Howard was equal to. The back four were extremely well disciplined and I would never have believed that Jay DeMerit was capable of playing as well as he did had I not seen it with my own eyes.

Jozy Altidore is clearly a decent player and performed like a man desperate to prove his worth. His pace, strength and directness are the definition of a modern European striker and his lung-bursting display will surely force the coaching staff at Villareal to reassess him come pre-season.

Also, any doubts about Bob Bradley's ability to coach under these conditions must be put to one side. To reach the final after such a shocking start to the competition required the team to draw on some serious reserves. It is impossible to believe that Bradley did not play some part in that and his tactics were absolutely spot on.

On the basis of last night's performance, my earlier description of the US team as journeymen seems harsh. And while one swallow does not make a summer, it is clear that some of these players are much better than they are given credit for -perhaps even better than they give themselves credit for. Their combination of industry, guts and dynamism going forward contributed to a match that has set a new marker in the progress of the game in the States and increased their standing in the global football community. They have given us a life affirming result that was a triumph for the game in general and for international football in particular. If anyone asks why you love football so much, the answer is simple:

Spain 0 USA 2

If they play like that in the Final, they stand an excellent chance of winning.

(PHOTO: Martin Meissner and Paul Thomas / Associated Press)


P Shaw said...

You mentioned Demerit and Howard but what about Jonathan Spector as well. Does he still play for Man Utd or has he moved on since then?

Chris O said...

I'm pleased to say he's a West Ham player these days, and you're right - he was just as dilligent on the night as any of the other US players.


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