The Brazilian coach Dunga’s name translates as “Dopey” in Portuguese, but this soubriquet could have applied to his entire team this evening as the South American champions rode their luck against an American team which, unencumbered by such considerations as fatigue, outplayed them in every department in Johannesberg for forty-five minutes this evening. The Americans deployed the same tactics as they did against Spain during the week. They ran their hearts out, defended deeply and hit the Brazilians with two stunning breaks before half-time, but even these ended up being not quite enough, as Brazil found themselves in the second half and clawed their way back into the match.
Earlier this afternoon, Spain had beaten South Africa to third place in the competition with a 3-2 win against the hosts in Rustenberg, in a match that came to life in the last fifteen minutes of normal time, which ended with an extraordinary thirty yard free kick from Katlego Mphela bringing South Africa level. A late, late freekick from Xabi Alonso which curled through about eighteen players to give Spain a win that much of their performance simply didn’t deserve. For South African supporters, though, there is at least cause for quiet optimism that even if they’re some way off being genuine challengers for the trophy, the rank humiliation that many had predicted for them won’t come to pass, at least.
The first half was all about the USA, though, and it took them just ten minutes to snatch the lead, with Jonathan Spector’s cross being volleyed in by Clint Dempsey. Brazil had shown signs of battle fatigue during their semi-final against South Africa during the week but, while they were managing to find chances, they also found the Everton goalkeeper to be in outstanding form. Just before the half hour, the Americans doubled their lead. This time they used a tactic straight from the Brazilian training ground – a lightning break down the middle from Charlie Davis ending in a simple pass to Landon Donovan, who wrong-footed Julio Cesar and rolled the ball in. Half-time came with the USA having held onto their lead fairly comfortably and looking at possibly winning their first pan-continental trophy.
It took forty seconds at the start of the second half for Brazil to punish the USA for their impudence. Luis Fabiano received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, was allowed to turn and fired a low shot past Howard to bring Brazil back into the match. Now it was Brazil doing all the pressing as tiredness finally started to creep into the American game. Then, with a little over a quarter of an hour left to play, Kaka found some space on the left hand side and crossed. Robinho’s mis-hit shot hit the crossbar but, as the American defence momentarily froze, Luis Fabiano nipped in to bring Brazil level. With eight minutes to play, Elano’s corner from the right caught the defence napping, and Lucio headed in off the far post.
There was no way back for the USA this time. The difference between the teams, best demonstrated by the lack of quality in depth which meant that their late substitutions had no significant effect, was obvious in the latter stages of the match. Ultimately, it seems that no amount of graft can overcome brilliantly talented individuals, so the Confederations Cup returns to South America. Ten goals in the last two matches of the tournament meant that it ended on a high and the hosting of the competition seems to be in safe hands, although concerns over the affordability of tickets remain. The Confederations Cup has been a pleasant enough summer diversion. Next year’s World Cup finals can’t come quickly enough.