With surprise win, US claim unlikely spot in Confederations Cup semis

June 22nd, 2009 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Ahmed Zahran
Rustenburg (South Africa), June 22 (DPA) The United States celebrated a famous victory and a dramatic turn of events in Confederations Cup football here Sunday night, as they beat Egypt 3-0 and claimed an unlikely spot in the semi-finals after Brazil beat Italy by the same score in the other Group B match.

Going into the match, nothing had gone right for the US in the Confederations Cup after the side had fallen to Italy 1-3 and Brazil 0-3. But a first half goal from Charlie Davies and second half strikes by Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey were enough to send the North American champions ahead of Egypt on goal difference and over Italy on goals scored.

After the match, stand-in US captain Landon Donovan was overjoyed with the shocking results. “This is incredible,” said the inspirational midfielder. “We knew what we were capable, but it’s still a big surprise. It’s just great for us.

“Now we have a difficult game ahead of us and a very big match,” said the LA Galaxy player, referring to their semi-final contest with Group A winners Spain in Bloemfontein Wednesday. The European champions are currently on a world record 15 match unbeaten streak and can set the mark for most international matches unbeaten if they get past the US.

Egypt, who got a famous 1-0 win over the Italians in their last match but were without talismanic striker Mohamed Zidan through injury, were thoroughly outplayed in Royal Bafokeng Stadium, though the first chance of the contest fell to them in the 13th minute.

The US defence failed to clear a free kick from the left wing and the ball fell into a mass of players, but Ahmed Abdelghani, Ahmed Al Muhamadi and Wael Gomaa all failed to make good contact inside the six-yard box before the US cleared.

Back immediately the other way, Bradley forced a diving one-hand save from Essam El Hadary as he pulled the ball back from the right side eight yards out.

On the 15 minute mark, Landon Donovan was alone on the goalkeeper but chose to lay the ball into the middle for Jozy Altidore, who had made his run the opposite way.

After a run of good play, the US deservedly took the lead in the 21st minute after Altidore turned well on the left and the Egyptian defence made a hash of the clearance at the near post in front of Davies, who banged the ball off El Hadary and into the net.

“We started with energy, which we didn’t against Brazil,” said coach Bob Bradley, when asked about the importance of the first goal. “But the early goal definitely settled us down some.”

Donovan could have scored one of his own in the 29th minute when he took the ball off an Egyptian midfielder near the half-way line, before breaking through the defence to find himself alone in front of the netminder. But El Hadary got down well to save bravely from point-blank range.

In the second half, the US again started the brighter side and should have doubled their lead in the 51st minute when El Hadary could only parry Altidore’s shot from 12 yards out. The deflected shot was headed for the net but it hit off Hani Said’s thigh and then arm on the goal-line.

The US got their second goal three minutes after the hour mark when Bradley, the coach’s son, calmly tucked Donovan’s cross into the bottom right corner of the net on Father’s Day.

And in the 71st minute, the US got the goal they needed to move into second in the group when Clint Dempsey’s diving header from Jonathan Spector’s cross left El Hadary stranded.

Despite the fact that one goal from Egypt would still have seen them through, the African champions continued to be ineffective. Their only real chance of taking the spot in the last four disappeared when Gomaa headed just over from metres away in the final minute of injury time.

“We knew the Brazil score at half-time,” revealed coach Bradley. “And we talked about pushing for more goals, which is what we did. I am happy with the players, and we are very excited to be moving on.”

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