Thursday, June 25, 2009

USA to Ride Confederations Cup Wave Into 2010

The party is still rockin' in Bloemfontein hours after the United States men's soccer team defeated Spain to advance to their first ever finals in a FIFA tournament or competition. The United States' 2-0 victory over top seeded Spain sent shockwaves through the soccer world.

Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey scored the two US goals in the 25th and 73rd minute, respectively, to give the Americans their first win against the European champions. It was their first victory against a top-ranked team since the US defeated Brazil in 1998 at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. For this team of soccer-outsiders, victory is sweet. We will have to wait to see how far the United States can bring this Cinderella story, this underdog surprise, this unlikely hero saga. Where it stops, as runners up or as Confederations Cup Champions, we will have to wait and see.

The United States will take on either Brazil or South Africa in the final. The Confederations Cup is a warm-up competition for the World Cup to take place next summer, when the best soccer nations in the world will vie for the sport's ultimate prize in South Africa.

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The road to the final was not an easy one for the United States. The Americans lost their first two matches as they were defeated by Brazil and Italy and faced a first round elimination, a scenario not unfamiliar to the world after seeing the US get booted year after year whenever they step up to the plate with soccer's elite. For the United States to stay alive they had to defeat Egypt by three goals and Italy had to lose to by Brazil by at least three goals. Against all odds, the United States advanced to the semis against Spain, who had not been defeated in 35 games and who had won 15 straight games.

This all has so far made for a hit Disney flick. It's actually pretty reminiscent of the Mighty Ducks series. The Ducks were perennial losers, finishing in last place every season. Coincidentally, the United States had put up a string of disappointing first round exits from many tournaments before the Confederations Cup. The Ducks defeated the Hawks, the best team in the league and the reigning champions. Now, after defeating the top ranked Spanish team, the USA has only to defeat Brazil or South Africa to live up to the underdog-story standards set by Gordon Bombay and his Ducks. Or it could be a finish like Rocky, on paper the loser, but in our hearts the winner. What a nice moment.

With the hype surrounding the victory, experts and sports pundits are questioning the legitimacy of this team and whether the win is a sign of things to come next year when the United States and the rest of the world heads to South Africa for the World Cup. The arrival of David Beckham was supposed to win the hearts and minds of every American boy and girl. If nothing else, maybe this big win over Europe's top team will at least garner some attention to a team deserving a little hype.

Written By Danny Hobrock

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