RUSTENBURG, South Africa (June 21, 2009) — Needing to score at least three goals and on the verge of elimination, the U.S. Men’s National Team overcame incredible odds and advanced to the semifinals of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup this evening with a 3-0 victory against Egypt in their final Group B match at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa. Combined with Brazil’s 3-0 victory against Italy, the U.S. moved from last to second place in the group and will face Spain in the semifinals on Wednesday, June 24.
Playing in by far the most difficult group, the U.S. lost their first two games to world champions Italy and Brazil, finishing tied with Italy on points (three) and goal differential (minus two), but advanced to the semifinals by virtue of more goals scored. Along with the goals against Egypt, Landon Donovan’s penalty kick against Italy provided the U.S. with four total goals. Italy only tallied three goals during the tournament, all against the U.S.
Getting his first start since the USA’s 2009 opener on Jan. 24, forward Charlie Davies scored the opening goal of the match with a dogged determination during a scramble in front of the net. With Brazil leading Italy by three goals at halftime, the U.S. was in position to make what seemed improbable at the start of the day a reality. In the second half, the U.S. took full advantage with goals from Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey that put the U.S. into the semifinals.
The U.S. will face Spain at Free State Stadium in Mangaung/Bloemfontein at 2:25 p.m. ET. The match will be live on ESPN and TeleFutura, while fans can also follow along on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker or at twitter.com/ussoccer. Spain, ranked No. 1 in the FIFA World Rankings, won Group A with three victories against New Zealand, Iraq and South Africa. The reigning European champions are currently on a world record-setting run of 15 consecutive victories, while tying the record of most consecutive matches without a defeat (35), originally set by Brazil.
“Without a doubt, we were focused on all three games knowing it was a tough group,” U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley said. “We knew that in the last game that we need to get after it in a way that would give us a chance. We started the game with a lot of energy. Getting the first goal becomes important. At halftime, we felt that if we were smart, and we continued to press in a good way that there would be chances and that we would get two more goals. In that regard, credit to the players for the push they made throughout the game. We’re excited to move on.”
After disappointing results and being forced to a play a man down for long stretches in their first two matches in the tournament, the U.S. came out inspired and played a much more controlled and offensive game against the Egyptians. Bradley called upon goalkeeper Brad Guzan and Davies for the first time in the tournament, while also plugging Ricardo Clark back into his central midfield role with Michael Bradley after serving his one-game suspension for a red card in the opening match.
Davies put the U.S. in the lead in the 21st minute by chasing down a scramble near the left post. The half-chance started with Jonathan Bornstein’s throw-in from the left sideline deep in Egypt’s defensive half which found Altidore near the endline. Altidore did well to hold off his defender, turn and hit a driven cross toward Davies at the six-yard box. Essam El Hadary came off his line to snag it, but lost control after colliding with defender Ahmed Fathi. The ball deflected behind El Hadary toward the left post and as he reached back for the ball, another collision occurred as Davies and defender Hani Said also tried to win the loose ball. The ball once again squirted free and was going toward the endline a foot wide of the left post, but Davies stayed with it, and with a stunningly quick move, pulled the ball off the endline with his left and then from an improbable angle hit a shot with his right foot that went off El Hadary’s hands and into the net.
After the goal, play was halted for about five minutes as El Hadary was treated right in front of the left post for a cut to the top of his head. The ‘keeper received the injury during the scramble in front of the box when Fathi’s knee struck him in the head.
The U.S. was unfortunate not to score another goal before halftime, but knowing Brazil was taking care of business in Tshwane/Pretoria provided even more incentive for the U.S. to score the required two goals in the second half. The U.S. were denied a goal when a Jozy Altidore shot was saved off the line by the arm of Egyptian defender Hani Said, but no penalty was called. Nonetheless, the U.S. stayed focused and got the needed goals during a nine-minute span.
Bradley got the U.S. one goal closer to the semifinals in the 63rd minute due to a nice combination with Donovan. Clark won a header in the U.S. defensive half, nodding it to Donovan inside the center circle. With one touch, Donovan played it across to Bradley and they both streaked forward towards goal. About 25 yards out Bradley played it back for Donovan who was running alongside his left, putting him into the penalty area. Bradley continued his run into the box and Donovan slipped it across to the penalty spot where Bradley hit his one-timer into the right side of the goal past El Hadary.
Looking for the all-important third goal, Bob Bradley brought in Benny Feilhaber in to replace Altidore in the 69th minute and moved Dempsey up to forward. The U.S. finally broke free two minutes later. Michael Bradley found defender Jonathan Spector who had found space along the right flank. Spector took a settling touch and looked up to see even numbers along Egypt’s backline, with four U.S. players converging towards the penalty area. He whipped in a curling service that found Dempsey, who held off Wael Gomaa and directed a perfectly-placed header just inside the left post.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Dempsey. “The odds were against us and the chances of us going through were slim. All we could control was ourselves. Credit to all the guys and the coaching staff. We worked hard this whole tournament so far and believed in ourselves. Now it’s time to refocus and get ready for Spain.”
The three-goal performance marked the second most goals the U.S. has scored in a single FIFA Confederations Cup match since a 5-2 victory against Ivory Coast on Oct. 19, 1992, when the tournament was called the King Fahd Cup.
During the first 15 minutes of the match, Egypt had a handful of dangerous chances, but the U.S. defense did well to keep Egypt off the board and on the other end, didn’t shy away from taking opportunities from outside the box with Dempsey hitting a free kick on target and Clark unleashing two shots that missed the frame.
In the 13th minute, an Egyptian free kick created some hairy moments as the ball deflected off Michael Bradley and fell to Ahmed Eid at the back post. Eid touched it square for Ahmed Abdelghani, but the forward couldn’t get a clean shot off with Jay DeMerit defending, and the ball bounced around the top of the six-yard box before being cleared out of danger.
Less than a minute later, Dempsey collected a poor Egyptian clearance near the edge of the center circle and after patiently dribbling forward he slipped a well-timed ball through for a streaking Bradley into the right side of the penalty area. Bradley hit a hard one-timer towards the far post, but El Hadary came up with an impressive one-handed diving save to keep the game scoreless.
Dempsey once again provided a fantastic service in the 16th minute when he hit a long ball to Donovan who was streaking down the left flank. Donovan chested it down in stride and blew by Said with his next touch to get him into the penalty area with just Hadary to beat. Spotting Altidore charging into the area, he tried to play a square pass across the box but the two failed to connect.
As the half went on, the U.S. started taking control of the game and continued to produce dangerous chances. Donovan was the catalyst for a number of the attacks, including a great dribbling run in the 29th minute. The U.S. captain won the ball near the midfield stripe on the left sideline, pushing the ball around Ahmed Al Muhamadi and streaking towards goal. As he neared the penalty area he feinted to his right, catching Said flat-footed but El Hadary was able to snatch the ball off Donovan’s foot, losing the bandage wrap he received just moments before.
During the next 10 minutes, Egypt created two good chances with strikes from outside the penalty area. In the 31st minute, a good combination by Egypt provided Mohamed Aboutrika with a shot on frame, but Guzan dove to his right to make the save. Eight minutes later, Hosni Abde Rabbou uncorked a 25-yard strike that was just high, skimming the top of the crossbar.
The U.S. came close to taking a two-goal lead into halftime when Bradley started a quick counter by slipping a through ball for Davies right at the start of first-half extra time. With his defenders beat, Davies’ first touch into the box didn’t give him the best angle, but he still struck a hard shot on goal that was saved by El Hadary.
In the second half, the U.S. continued to stymie Egypt’s attack and push forward on offense. In the 51st minute, Egypt defender Said appeared to handle the ball on the goal line, but no penalty was awarded.
The play started when Oguchi Onyewu stole the ball in the U.S. defensive half and started the attack with an uncharacteristic 35-yard dribbling run down the middle of the field. The 6-foot-4-inch centerback found Dempsey to his right and the midfielder touched it into the right side of the penalty area for a streaking Davies. Using his speed to chase the ball down, Davies hit a low one-timer across the goalmouth where Onyewu left it for Altidore, who was unmarked in the middle of the box. Altidore took a settling touch before hitting a strike that El Hadary got a hand on but continued towards goal where it deflected off Said’s right thigh and then his right arm as he stood on the goal line. The ball was eventually cleared out and despite the USA’s objections for a handling call, referee Michael Hester did not give the U.S. a penalty kick.
Bradley had another opportunity five minutes later when a cleared ball fell to him at the top of the box, but his left-footed strike was saved well by a sprawling El Hadary.
Egypt almost spoiled the USA’s unbelievable comeback in the 90th minute with a fantastic opportunity on net. Pushing up the left flank, Wahid received the ball and curled in an early ball to the back post. Gomaa situated himself perfectly behind Onyewu and in front of Bornstein, but his driven header went just over the bar.
This was the first time the U.S. had ever defeated Egypt, falling 3-1 to the African champions in their only other meeting in Seoul, South Korea, on June 8, 1987.
With his start today, Donovan passed Claudio Reyna and moved into fourth all-time on the U.S. cap list with 113 appearances. Cobi Jones tops the list with 164 caps.
In group A action on Saturday, Spain won their third straight match with a 2-0 victory against South Africa. Despite the loss, the hosts advanced to the semifinals along with Spain as Iraq and New Zealand played to a scoreless draw. South Africa will face Brazil on Thursday, June 25 in the other semifinal live on ESPN and TeleFutura.
-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --
Match: United States vs. Egypt
Date: June 21, 2009
Competition: FIFA Confederations Cup – Group Stage
Venue: Royal Bafokeng Stadium - Rustenburg
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. local time
Weather: 57 degrees and clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
EGY 0 0 0
USA – Charlie Davies 21st minute
USA - Michael Bradley (Landon Donovan) 63
USA - Clint Dempsey (Jonathan Spector) 71
USA: 18-Brad Guzan; 12-Jonathan Spector, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 15-Jay DeMerit, 2-Jonathan Bornstein; 10-Landon Donovan (capt.), 13 -Ricardo Clark, 12-Michael Bradley, 8-Clint Dempsey; 9-Charlie Davies (4-Conor Casey, 82), 17-Jozy Altidore (22-Benny Feilhaber, 69)
Subs not used: 1-Tim Howard, 3-Carlos Bocanegra, 6-Heath Pearce , 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 11-Marvell Wynne, 14-Danny Califf, 19-Freddy Adu, 20-Jose Torres, 23-Luis Robles
Not Eligible: 16-Sacha Kljestan (suspension)
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
EGY: 1-Essam El Hadary (capt.); 7-Ahmed Fathi (4-Ahmed Said, 53), 6-Hani Said, 20-Wael Gomaa, 15-Ahmed Farag; 3-Ahmed Al Muhamadi, 11-Mohamed Shawky, 22-Mohamed Aboutrika, 8-Hosni Abd Rabbou; 10-Ahmed Eid (17-Ahmed Hassan, 50), 18-Ahmed Abdelghani (19-Mohamed Abougrisha, 62)
Subs Not Used: 16-Wahid, 23-Mohamed Sobhi, 2-Mahmoud Fathalla, 5-Ahmed Khairy, 9-Mohamed Zidan, 12-Mohamed Homos, 13-Abdelaziz Tawfik, 14-Sayed Moawad, 21-Ahmed Raouf
Head Coach: Hassan Shehata
Stats Summary: USA / EGY
Shots: 14 / 9
Shots on Goal: 9 / 4
Saves: 4 / 7
Corner Kicks: 1 / 7
Fouls: 11 / 8
Offside: 0 / 5
USA – Jonathan Spector (caution) 38th minute
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 48
EGY – Ahmed Al Muhamadi (caution) 83
Referee: Michael Hester (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Jan-Hendrik Hintz (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Mark Rule (NZL)
Fourth Official: Matthew Breeze (AUS)
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