USA v Spain, Confederations Cup semi-final, June 24, 2009
Phrases like â€œthe American dreamâ€ and â€œYes, we can!â€ were swiftly bandied about after the USAâ€™s incredible 3-0 win against Egypt ensured progression to the Confederations Cup semi-finals, despite two defeats in their opening two matches to Italy and Brazil.
Their shock semi-final place will be put into perspective when they face the in-form team in world football on Wednesday night, and it would take a brave man to bet against a Spain-Brazil Confederations Cup final which could well be a precursor for the World Cup final in a yearsâ€™ time.
Michael Bradleyâ€™s side will attempt to become the first nation to defeat Spain since November 2006. (The US are 10/1 to win.) If Vicente Del Bosqueâ€™s charges avoid defeat they will better Brazilâ€™s 35-match unbeaten run set between 1993 and 1996, as this Spanish side establish themselves among the best teams to have ever played the game at international level.
Such has been the quality of Spainâ€™s football in recent years that it is almost impossible to see Team America causing an upset. The Spanish midfield is ticking along despite the absences of Marcos Senna and Andres Iniesta, whilst the front two of David Villa and Fernando Torres (both 7/2 to score a brace) are goal-machines with three goals each in the tournament so far.
Torres claimed a hat-trick in the opener against New Zealand and despite the almost hourly updates on David Villaâ€™s future, the Valencia striker has bagged a goal in each game and is looking in fine goal scoring touch. Watford defender Jay DeMerit and Premier League target Oguchi Onyewu will have their hands-full against the best strike partnership in world football. (Spain are 6/1 to be shut-out by the US.)
The USA will at least have their tails up after their win over Egypt and literally have nothing to lose. Captain Landon Donovan said after the win over the Pharaohs: “We thought it was our last game, honestly, we just wanted to go out and give a good showing.” As a result they can play without fear and do have an array of attacking players that could see them make an impact at the World Cup next year.
Much will depend on talisman Landon Donovan (4/1 to score) whilst Jozy Altidoreâ€™s (7/2 to score) physical presence will be key for Team USA if he can get in amongst Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique. Clint Dempsey (5/1 to score) had a fine season for Fulham last season and is emerging as a leader for coach Bradley, whilst son Michael (who scored against Egypt on Fatherâ€™s Day â€“ aaaah) is a good bet for first goal scorer, as a box-to-box midfielder who consistently pops up with a goal.
Last year Spain beat the USA 1-0 thanks to a Xavi winner (watch here) which suggests this game could be closer than expected (Bob Bradley: â€œThey wore us downâ€). The Euro 2008 winners would have expected to play Italy in this game and with Xavi, Alonso and Fabregas expected to be dominant in midfield there will surely only be one winner.
Full match odds here.