June 21, 2009
By Michael Lewis
U.S. moves into Confederations Cup semis with a 3-0 win over Egypt
RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- The U.S. National Team pulled off one of the most miraculous wins in its history Sunday night.
|Clint Dempsey's 71st-minute goal put the U.S. through to the Confederations Cup semifinals.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue images
Playing inspired soccer, by far it's best soccer of the FIFA Confederations Cup, the United States recorded an improbable 3-0 Group B victory over Egypt to advance to the semifinals of the tournament.
The Americans got some help from Brazil, who routed Italy 3-0 in the other Group match, in booking their Wednesday medal-round matchup against European champions Spain, winners of Group A.
The U.S., which played poorly at times and dropped its first two games of the tournament, needed at least a 3-0 win to move on. The Americans lost to Italy, 3-1, and were embarrassed by Brazil, 3-0.
The U.S., Italy and Egypt finished with 1-2 records, Brazil winning the group at 3-0-0.
The Americans advanced over Italy on the second tiebreaker, goals scored. Both teams had a minus-two goal differential, but the U.S. scored four goals to Italy's three. Egypt finished at minus 3.
Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey scored for the U.S. Dempsey's 71st-minute header put the U.S. over the top.
After a slow start, which saw Egypt snap off two quick shots in the first two minutes and that brought back bad memories of the Brazil loss, the U.S. team regained its composure and started to move up and attack.
Through sheer will and determination, the Americans struck first during a scramble in the 22nd minute. Fullback Jonathan Bornstein started the scoring sequence with a throw-in to Jozy Altidore on the left side. Altidore sent a low cross to Charlie Davies at the near post. A scramble ensued and Egyptian defender Ahmed Fathi hit his goalkeeper, Essam El Hadary in the head while he was on the ground. Davies hustled to keep the ball in play and with Hani Said and Fathi surrounding him, he managed to knock the ball off Hadary's head into the net.
It was the U.S.'s first goal in the run of play in five matches, and Davies' second international goal.
Hadary was attended to by medical officials, forcing four minutes of first-half stoppage time. He wore a head bandage the rest of the match.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who got the starting nod in goal over Tim Howard, made a key save in the 22nd minute, using both hands to knock away Mohamed Aboutrika's shot in the penalty area.
The U.S. probably kicked itself going into the locker room at halftime because of the abundance of chances they could have put away.
Dempsey had a one-bounce free kick to Hadary in the sixth minute. Ricardo Clark fired wide right from 25 yards less than a minute later.
Michael Bradley fired a long shot that Hadary knocked away with one hand in the 14th minute. Two minutes later, Landon Donovan motored down the left side with the ball and appeared to try to cross it to Altidore, who stopped as the ball bounced harmlessly through the penalty area. There must have been a miscommunication between the two players.
The Americans thought they should have been awarded a penalty kick in the 52nd minute. Altidore blasted a 12-yard shot that Hadary saved. The ball richocheted off to Said, who was guarding the right post. The ball went off Said's arm and chest. Altidore rasied his hands, signifying a hand ball, but referee Michael Hester thought otherwise. It could have been a red card and a penalty kick for the U.S.
The U.S. made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute on a nifty give-and-go between Bradley and Donovan in the penalty area. Bradley slid into Donovan's short pass from the left side.
As the play was developing, Egypt coach Hassan Shehata threw a plastic water bottle onto the field that right fullback Jonathan Spector threw off the pitch. No action was taken by Hester or the game officials.
The Americans reached 3-0 in the 71st minute. This time Spector sent a 40-yard right-wing cross into the area that Dempsey headed home from seven yards at the far post.