Confederations Cup Final (or: How to Win a Tournament, by Brazil)

29 06 2009

The Confederations Cup 2009 is done, with both the third place playoff and the final taking place today. Congratulations to champions Brazil (who celebrated by wearing their shirts backwards) and to USA (yes, they threw away a two goal lead, but achieved plenty just by being in the final).

Let’s start with the game no one was interested in:

South Africa 2-3 Spain

Hosts South Africa went ahead through sub Katlego Mphela in the 73rd, and came thisclose to claiming third place. But Spanish sub Dani Guiza scored in both the 88th and 89th (the second of which was clearly a cross) before Mphela made it 2-2 with a screamer of a free kick in the 93rd and sent it to extra time. If you came late to this game, you timed it right.

South Africa did themselves proud, but had to settle for fourth after Xabi Alonso curled a 107th minute free kick into the far bottom corner.

Spain’s winning run has begun again, but South Africa have done themselves proud at this tournament by running both Brazil and Spain close.

Now onto the more serious game…

Brazil 3-2 USA

Obviously this was a bigger deal for the USA than for Brazil. The US has never won a tournament not named the Gold Cup, so the Confed Cup trophy would have taken pride of place in the US Soccer cabinet.

And after just 27 minutes, they were 2-0 up thanks to Clint Dempsey’s gentle volley (he meant it though, I think) and Landon Donovan’s goal on the counter-attack. With Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit putting on a repeat show of their defending vs Spain and Tim Howard looking like some sort of unbeatable half android, half human goalkeeping monster, a win looked a real possibility at half-time.

Second half was a different story, as Luis Fabiano’s turn and volley made it 2-1 with just 45:30 on the clock. From there it was almost all Brazil. Howard continued to make save after save, and even somehow convinced the refs that Kaka’s header hadn’t crossed the line (it clearly had).

Kaka’s influence grew and he eventually created Brazil equalizer by accelerating past Spector down the right and crossing for Robinho to hit the underside of the bar and Luis Fabiano to bury the rebound. Last but not least, Lucio made it 3-2 Brazil with just six minutes left when he headed home an Elano corner.

Great game of football for the neutral, and if the World Cup 2010 Final is even half as exciting as this, then I’ll be happy.

US fans might feel annoyed that their team let a 2-0 lead in a final disappear. Like when you smell great food heading your way in a restaurant and start salivating, only to see the food delivered to the next table. But the fact that the US even came that close is an achievement in itself, especially for a team that was all but mathematically eliminated before the final group game. They did well just to be at the table.

As for Brazil, that’s trophy number two for Dunga, who can respond to his critics with both Copa America and Confederations Cup medals. Not everyone loves how his Brazil plays, and the questions will continue all the way up to (and during) World Cup 2010. But his team battled back from two goals down today and got the job done.




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