Talk about highs and lows. If you saw the U.S. men’s soccer
team take on Brazil
in the Confederations Cup Final
, then you know what I’m talking about. It didn’t even matter what team you were supporting in this game, because there were highs and lows aplenty for both teams. For the average American fan (that would be me), this game was like a first crush. You know, the one that feels so good at first, but just ends up crushing your heart in the end. Well, just picture that person (your first crush). Whoever that person was, well that person was like this game. For the average American soccer fan (again, that’s me), all the highs came in the first half. In the ninth minute, Clint Dempsey
swiped at a cross from Jonathan Spector and something unbelievable happened. Dempsey’s foot seemed to barely make contact with the ball, but the ball sliced perfectly past Julio Cesar, into the corner of the Brazilian net. Brazil pushed forward after the goal, but they looked a little frantic and off rhythm, despite dominating possession of the ball. Then, against the run of play, Landon Donovan
somehow scored a stunning second goal for the U.S. in the twenty-sixth minute. Donovan exchanged passes with Charlie Davies on a U.S. counter attack, then executed a perfect cutback and shot to slide in a second shock goal for his team. I still don’t know what was more of a shock in the first half, the two U.S. goals, or the fact that Brazil couldn’t score a goal of their own. For the average Brazilian fan, it must have felt like an all time low for their national team. Not only were they getting beaten in a final, they were getting beaten by a country that didn’t even really care about soccer that much. The fact that Americans call the game soccer and not football, is a slap in the face in itself. To actually get beaten by an American team in a FIFA final though, might seem like a disgrace for a country with as rich and proud a football history as Brazil.
But none of it matters now anyway. All of the speculation is a wash anyway, since the second half was another story entirely. Brazil smashed in three goals against the U.S. and the Americans couldn't reply with a single goal of their own. Luis Fabiano struck two well taken goals, and then Lucio crashed in a header past Tim Howard. In spite of allowing the three goals, Howard was the most valuable player for the Americans in my book, for saving so many others. Brazil actually scored an additional goal, but the referee and his linesman must have been to slow to see the ball cross the line before Howard swatted it away. Instant replay made it all too painfully obvious though. The Brazilians in fact scored four goals in the second half, to raise the cup deservedly and crush my heart. I’m still trying to figure out if I deserved to have my heart crushed, but that’s another story entirely.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here. For Brazil, this final marks yet another FIFA championship where that lovable samba swagger and style carried the day in the end. As for the U.S., this loss was actually a new height of sorts. The U.S. men’s team had never before reached a cup final in a FIFA sponsored event. By beating Spain, the number one ranked team in the world, 2-0 in the semifinals , the U.S. showed that it's more of a team to be reckoned with than many folks might like to admit. The fact that the U.S. took a lead, and nearly beat the all mighty Brazil in the final, speaks volumes about how far the team has come. But with new heights of hope, come new lows. My hunch is that fans of U.S. soccer (yours truly) will have to learn how much it sucks to get to a final and lose, like so many other countries have in the past, before we can actually win one in the end.