The 2009 Confederations Cup Final lived fully up to expectations last night. From the moment we heard the distinctive sound those vuvuzelas to the moment when Brazil lifted the trophy for a record third time, everything seemed to be perfectly predictable and ultimately satisfying.
The USA, fresh from their outstanding 2-0 semi-final win over Spain, arrived intent on making the world sit up and take notice. Brazil merely had their reputation as purveyors of fine football to protect, although the prospect of a defeat to their North American neighbours was also something worth trying to avoid.
Bob Bradley’s USMNT disappointed none of their home fans by being up and out of the blocks first. Fulham’s Clint Dempsey flicked home a Jonathan Spector cross to put the Americans 1-0 up after just ten minutes and a repeat performance of the Spanish win was once again on the cards.
et Brazil didn’t sit back as Robinho tried and failed to grab an equaliser only moments later, his shot saved well by Tim Howard. In fact the US keeper had to be on his mettle again on two subsequent occasions when Maicon and Felipe Melo tested the Everton number 1, and to his credit he remained consistently strong.
It would prove vital in enabling the US to extend their lead and extend it they did when Charlie Davies counter-attacked with speed and crossed for Landon Donovan to drive neatly past Julio Cesar. The Americans led 2-0 and with Howard blocking anything the Brazilians could throw at them, the half time lead was certainly deserved.
Brazil came out in the second half knowing that they had to convert their greater possession and better chances into goals, and within moments of the restart, they got one. Maicon managed to get the ball to Luis Fabiano and with a deft turn and shot, the ball was in and finally past Tim Howard.
With the game standing at 2-1 to the USA, Brazil needed to push on and they thought they had an equaliser just after the hour mark when Kaka’s header was cleared from behind the goalline by Howard – out of sight from any of the officials.
After 74 minutes, the equaliser did arrive. Kaka played a firm, low cross into the area which found Robinho who could only shoot onto the underside of the bar. When the ball bounced out, it was tournament top scorer Luis Fabiano that was first to reach it, heading in from close range to make it 2-2.
With only six minutes remaining and US spirits (and energy levels) flagging, Brazil did what they always seem to do – grab a winning goal when it matters. Elano’s corner was met by Lucio who deftly powered in a header off the inside of the post to win the game 3-2.
It was cruel on the Americans and a great shame for a team that had tried so hard to transform itself from tournament non-achievers to potential tournament winners. In the end, however, our words from the second semi-final rang true again: Brazil are devilishly difficult to beat and can never be written off.
Here in the Final, the US had come out with a plan in mind which so very nearly worked. They defended well, played efficiently on the break and scored important goals, but critically only for one half of the match. It was always going to be difficult to maintain that level of proficiency over the full 90 minutes, and Brazil exposed that harsh truth all too well.
Dunga’s team are to be applauded for their trophy win. They looked professional without really trying to be on occasions, and that in itself requires great skill and technical ability, but let’s acknowledge America’s role in all this.
Not so long ago, they were heading home in something approaching shame for the way they started this competition, yet here they were asking Brazil to score three in 45 minutes to prevent them from being proclaimed the victors. They almost made it, but the fact that they didn’t doesn’t matter. They played their part in entertaining and inspiring all those who watched them and that must also be recognised as adding great value to what has been a very enjoyable tournament indeed.