Brazil v United States, Confederations Cup Final, June 28, 2009
While pre-tournament forecasters may have identified Brazil, the defending champions, as a likely finalist at the Confederations Cup, the United States arrived in South Africa in a state of flux and with most analysts skimming over the US challenge.
Just weeks before landing in Africa the United States were played off the park in a 3-1 defeat in Costa Rica in World Cup qualification as coach Bob Bradley was forced to constantly juggle with an ever-changing squad of players. As such, there was little belief that the US could edge Italy and Egypt to escape their group, let alone defeat Spain in the semis. Yet, in the space of just one month Team America have morphed from the proverbial zeros to heroes. (The US are 13/2 to win the final.)
Now the United States prepare to play in their first ever FIFA tournament final in Johannesburg Sunday night. If they hope to lift the trophy, Bob Bradley’s squad will need to repeat the nearly flawless performance they turned in against the European Champions when Jozy Altidore (11/1 to score first) and Clint Dempsey (5/1 to score) scored goals for the Yanks in a 2-nil victory. Sadly, though, they will need to do so in the final handicapped by the absence of one of their star performers.
Upsetting the starting-eleven, the US will be without Michael Bradley in the middle of the park after the Gladbach midfielder was red carded in the final moments of semi-final. Benny Feilhaber or Sacha Kljestan will likely be drafted in as the replacement against the Samba Boys.
Defensively, little is expected to change for the final with captain Carlos Bocanegra set to continue in his new role at left-back, while Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu will be called upon for another stellar performance at the heart of the American defence. Tim Howard should continue between the sticks. (The Americans are 4/1 to keep a clean sheet, 5/2 to let in just one goal.)
Up-top Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies have formed a dynamic partnership that has crucially bore goals and, with Landon Donovan supporting from midfield, Bradley’s boys will be hoping that they can unlock the Brazilian’s defence in the final.
The American will arrive at the final in high-spirits as momentum as flipped in their favour. Since their 3-nil drumming at the hands of the Brazilians in the group stage, the Americans have completely come out of their shell scoring five goals in two games and conceding zip in the process. By contrast, US supporters will have watched the Brazilians’ narrow defeat of Bafan Bafana in the semis and been buoyed by the difficulties the South Americans experienced in reaching the final.
That said, Brazil are without-question the pre-match favourites to retain their title (5/2 to win) and claim the Confederations Cup for a historic third time.
Observers have watched on as Dunga has effectively deployed a 4-2-3-1 system in South Africa, with the attacking quartet of Luis Fabiano (10/11 to score), Kaka (11/8 top score), Robinho and Ramires looking destructive at the business end of the pitch. Protecting the backline has been the responsibility for the evergreen Gilberto Silva alongside Arsenal target Felipe Melo, while in defence Lucio, Maicon, Luisao and Andre Santos should line up in front of Julio Cesar for the final.
The Americans will have their work cut out trying to contain the Brazilian threat. However, with the United States having nothing to lose and everything to gain once more, this final has all the ingredients to be a cracker.
Full match odds here.