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Spain Stunned By Yanks


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
USA 2-0 Spain

Altidore 25
Dempsey 73

Last week the American football team could have been forgiven for packing their bags in advance of an early exit. Beaten in a tight encounter with Italy and then thrashed to within an inch of their lives by Brazil, their only hope of qualification was to beat Egypt and hope for a six goal swing in the table. Thankfully for them, the North Africans and, most importantly, Italy obliged. Now the USA find themselves in the final of the Confederations Cup, having just beaten the best team on the planet. Whoever said that football was a funny old game made the understatement of the century.

There will be a temptation to glance at this scoreline and dismiss it as an irrelevance, but nothing could be further from the truth. This wasn't a weakened Spanish team and the knee-jerk excuse that the players were exhausted after a long season in Europe is redundant. Nine of the American starting eleven play in Europe. So what happened? For large parts of the game, particularly in the second half, Spain were dominant, jabbing the ball around the pitch with precision, stretching and straining the back-line, but without success. Fernando Torres couldn't quite get his angles right and David Villa's targeting computer was apparently offline and awaiting repair. He hit one shot so wide that it went out for a throw-in, almost ten yards back from the corner flag.

The Americans, by contrast, made their chances count. Jozy Altidore turned his Villarreal club-mate Joan Capdevila inside out and slammed a shot past Iker Cassilas. Altidore, a Heskey-alike frontman surely destined for the Premier League, couldn't have timed his goal any better. The 19 year old has been on-loan at Xerez this season, but you get the feeling he might be retained next season. He may be a little clumsy and erratic, but he leads the line, holds the ball up and can turn like a dervish. Frankly, I'm amazed that Everton haven't already moved in.

But while Capdevila must hang his head for the ease at which he allowed Altidore to evade him, Sergio Ramos was left wearing the dunce cap after he gifted the US their crucial second goal. A defender of his experience really should have known better than to take a touch on a ball in his own six yard box, especially if you've got someone like Clint Dempsey hanging around behind you. There was an air of complacency about the Spanish here, as if they assumed that they were so good that sooner or later they had to score. Tim Howard was on hand to make sure that wasn't the case.

Vicente Del Bosque praised his opponents for their victory and admitted that it had come as quite a shock. "This is an accident, a little step backwards, but we look forward with optimism." In fact, this might be the best thing that has ever happened to Spain. Imagine the pressure and the expectation if they returned to South Africa next year with this trophy in their back pocket. Sometimes even the greatest teams need to be reminded that, in football, if you come against a well-organised, hard-working side like the US, anything can happen.