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June 28, 2009
Strong first half not enough as US loses Confederations Cup Final

By Michael Lewis

Clint Dempsey scored the first US goal against Brazil, and won the Bronze Ball as the third most outstanding player in the Confederations Cup.
Clint Dempsey scored the first US goal against Brazil, and won the Bronze Ball as the third most outstanding player in the Confederations Cup.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The U.S.'s quest to win its first international title ended in disappointing fashion Sunday.

The Americans allowed a two-goal second-half lead to slip away to five-time world champions Brazil en route to an excruciating 3-2 loss in the FIFA Confederations Cup final at Ellis Park.

Defender Lucio headed home a corner kick in the 84th minute to break a 2-2 deadlock before a crowd of 52,291.

Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan had boosted the Americans to a 2-0 halftime advantage, but the relentless Brazilians refused to give up and continued to attack from the opening whistle of the final half.

Luis Fabiano scored twice in the second half to pull the Brazilians even.

Similar to their 2-0 semifinal upset of Spain on Wednesday, the Americans came out strong, playing inspired and hustling soccer as they vied for their first international title.

A world-class finish by Dempsey lifted the U.S. into a surprising 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.

After Robinho fouled right fullback Jonathan Spector at midfield, Spector launched a long cross from the right side into the penalty area. Dempsey, with his back to goal, spun to volley a shot that bounced twice past goalkeeper Julio Cesar into the left far corner.

It was Dempsey's third goal of the tournament.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard kept the Brazilians off the scoreboard with a pair of smart saves within a minute.

First, he made a diving two-handed save on a long-range blast by Felipe Melo in the 25th minute. Felipe Melo was given a yellow card by referee Martin Hansson for dissent.

A minute later, Howard denied Maicon at the near right post.

Then it was the American's turn to strike, and they did that in the 27th minute, clearing the ball out of their defensive zone. Donovan completed a give-and-go with Charlie Davies. Donovan received the ball between two Brazilians, turned Ramires around, settled himself and fired a 17-yard shot with his left foot into the right corner for his second goal of the tournament.

It was Donovan's first goal from the run of play in about eight months, since the U.S.'s World Cup qualifying win over Cuba in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 11, 2008.

It was also only the second time the U.S. had scored twice against the Brazilians, the other times coming in 1930 and its 4-2 loss in Chicago on Sept. 9, 2007.

Only 39 seconds into the second half, the Brazilians showed they were far from finished as Luis Fabiano, with central defender Jay DeMerit right in front of him, connected from the top of the penalty area past Howard to slice the U.S. lead in half.

It was his fourth goal in five matches.

Howard was called back into action in the 58th minute, when he denied Brazilian captain and defender Lucio on a point-blank header off a corner kick.

Only two minutes later, the Americans were fortunate a goal wasn't awarded to Kaka, who had headed the ball from close range on the right side. The ball appeared to cross the goal line. Howard, who was backed into the net, punched at the ball. It hit the top inside of the crossbar before bounding away.

Kaka wanted the game officials to award a goal, but neither Hansson nor assistant referee Henrik Andren would rule that way.

The Brazilians kept on attacking wave after wave, trying to break the U.S. again. Finally, the Americans managed to get the ball back again, forcing Julio Cesar to make a spectacular punch save off a Dempsey blast in the 66th minute.

Howard saved the Americans again in the 71st minute, when he smothered Robinho's breakaway in the penalty area.

As good as he was, Howard was far from perfect as the Brazilians equalized in the 74th minute. Robinho's shot hit the crossbar. The rebound went to Luis Fabiano, who headed it inside the near right post from close range for a 2-2 tie.

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