Sunday, June 21, 2009

Beautiful Game Turns Ugly

The Confederations Cup rolled into its second weekend today with stunning results.

But before we get to that, let’s salute Spain and its 2-0 victory over South Africa yesterday, in which La Selección set a FIFA record for 15 consecutive wins in official competitions and tied Brazil’s streak of 35 matches in a row without a loss.

Now, for today’s positively absurd results.

Italy went into today’s match vs. Brazil needing to beat the South American giants and then get some help to advance to the semifinals. If they beat Brazil outright, a U.S. win over Egypt would likely put them through, depending on the goal situation. Failing that, they needed to hold Brazil to a draw and then hope that the U.S. beat Egypt 1-0.

Egpyt could advance by beating the U.S.

The only possible way the U.S. could advance would be by destroying Egpyt and having Italy be trounced by Brazil.

You know where this is headed.

After an initial 10 or 15 minutes in which they had a few scoring chances and looked aggressive, Italy then proceeded to fall apart completely, in a debacle reminiscent of the fast-breaking counter-attack whipping they suffered at the hands of The Netherlands in last summer’s Euro 08.

Brazil ran rampant toward the end of the first half, sprinting up and down the pitch to earn three goals in a 10-minute span, including two by now-ubiquitous striker Luis Fabiano and an own-goal by Andrea Dossena that, to be fair, would’ve easily been converted by Brazil for the third had the defender not accidentally pushed it past keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Neither side could score in the second half, with Brazil coasting to a 3-0 victory and nine points from three wins to take Group B.

Now, Italy would have to hope the hapless U.S. -- which had lost to Italy and then been eviscerated by Brazil -- could somehow find some heart and beat Egypt in a low-scoring match.

But, no, Egypt went right into the tank, improbably losing 3-0 to the Stars and Stripes, leaving Italy, Egpyt and the U.S. all tied with three points.

Both Italy and the U.S. had goal differentials of -2, eliminating Egypt (-3) in the first tiebreaker.

The second tiebreaker – goals scored – favored the U.S., who’d managed to net four vs. Italy’s three, sending the Italians home and the U.S. into the semifinals where they’ll face Spain on Wednesday.

Good luck with that.

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