For the first half of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup held in South Africa, the US led mighty Brazil two goals to nil. They were merely forty-five minutes away from a storybook finish that would have made Walt Disney proud. As the saying goes, "Even Hollywood couldn't have written a better script." But it wasn't meant to be and by the 84th minute, Lucio's header ensured a win for the Joga Bonito club from Brazil. The incredible wave of improbability that the American squad had ridden into their first ever FIFA sanctioned final had ebbed into a foamy puddle of second place "nice tries."
According to ussoccer.com, after the game, coach Bob Bradley said, "It was a tough one. Obviously, a good first half, but we give up the first goal so early in the second half that we put ourselves in a tough spot." He went on to say that he was, "extremely proud. We continue to try to move ourselves forward. Playing these kinds of games only helps, but it still feels pretty lousy to let this one get away." U.S. midfielder and Bronze Ball Winner Clint Dempsey couldn't agree more, "Everything doesn't always work out how you want it to, but no matter what I'm proud of what these guys accomplished and it was great to be a part of it."
It's easy to put this game into perspectives, however. The FIFA Confederations Cup isn't that old. In fact, it was original called The King Fahd Cup, or the Intercontinental Championship, and was first held in 1992 in Saudi Arabia.
In 1997, FIFA decided to add it to their ever-growing list of tournaments, and changed the name to Confederations Cup. It's an association soccer tournament for national teams, currently held every four years and between the winners of each of the six FIFA confederation championships (CAF, CONMEBOL, UEFA, AFC, OFC, CONCACAF), along with the FIFA World Cup winner and the host country, to bring the number of teams up to eight.
Those who are invited to the cup are supposedly la crème de la crème. Italy is the current reigning champion and as such, gets an automatic berth. South Africa is the site for the next world cup in 2010, so they get the second de facto spot.
Egypt has won the last two CAF, Africa Cup of Nations titles. That's a pretty impressive resume to bring to the tournament. Iraq has been at war since 2003, yet they managed to find eleven guys who could not only spare some time, but actually beat everyone else in the AFC division including three-time Asian champions Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final.
Spain is the current UEFA champ. They are also the best team in the world at the moment. There's nothing like the best in the world to show up at a cup. It adds that je ne sais quoi air of legitimacy. New Zealand appears for the third time representing the OFC, the Oceania Football Conference.
Copa America representative, Brazil, is also five time World Cup champions. They are an impressive team to add to any tournament, especially this one. The last member of this year's Confederation Cup, the United States, has one of the least impressive resumes of the bunch. They have only been to a few World Cups, have never made it to the final of any FIFA-sanctioned event and is better known for losing to Iran 2 1 in the 1998 World Cup in France than anything else.
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