The U.S. national team gave up a goal in the first half, yet attacked exceptionally well and controlled much of the second half in a 1-0 loss to Brazil July 28 in the opening round of the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico.
Despite the narrow loss, the U.S. will advance to the semifinals of the tournament with a win or a draw on Friday against Germany, who topped New Zealand 2-0 in the first match today.
"I think it was a very good game, tactically, by both teams," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena. "We got our opportunities in this match, and that's really all we could ask for."
The game-winner for the Brazilians came off the head of 19-year old sensation Ronaldinho in the 13th minute. Serginho collected the ball on the left side and sent a driven cross into the penalty area. Ronaldinho met the cross on the run with a redirected header that smashed off the right post and into the goal, giving Kasey Keller no chance to make the save.
The U.S., which outshot Brazil 13-8, began to demonstrate in the first half that they would not merely sit back and defend against the top ranked team in the world. The Americans defended in numbers against the quick Brazilians, and counter-attacked often, particularly through Jovan Kirovski, who held the ball and fed passes to Cobi Jones, Ernie Stewart and Brian McBride.
The USA's best chance of the first half came in the 30th minute after Jeff Agoos played a long, accurate ball down the left flank to Jones. The U.S. midfielder squirted into the area past Evanilson and cut the ball back into the path of McBride. McBride's 16-yard blast was blocked down to the feet of Jones, and his shot was saved by Brazilian keeper Dida.
Behind the defensive midfield work of John Harkes (later subbed by Joe-Max Moore) and Gregg Berhalter, and the back four of Agoos, Carlos Llamosa, Robin Fraser and Frankie Hejduk, the Americans clogged up space in the middle of the field and frustrated the Brazilian attack.
In the second half, the tide began to swing towards the Americans, who looked the fitter team and began to take better advantage of its flank play. Jones' tireless running created numerous opportunities, while Eddie Lewis (an offensive substitute for Llamosa) added his left-footed crosses to the American attack.
At the other end of the field, however, Keller was forced into making his best save of the match in the 63rd minute. Second half substitute Warley dribbled free on a breakaway from 40 yards out on the left side. With Robin Fraser closing on the Brazilian from behind, Keller glided off his line, dove low to his left, and made a superb save while offering no rebound.
Twelve minutes later, the USA earned its best chance to level the score after Jones was fouled inside the penalty area. Agoos set up the play with an exceptional pass to isolate Jones one-on-one on the flank. The resulting penalty kick was taken by Joe-Max Moore, who charged up and drilled a right-footed shot heading towards the left corner, but at full extension Dida made a world-class save to keep the shutout in order.
The United States will round out Group B play against Germany on Friday (July 30; 6 p.m. CT). Should the U.S. defeat or tie Germany on Friday (assuming Brazil does not lose to New Zealand) the Americans would face the Group A champion on Sunday (July 1) at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
"It will be a test of endurance and a test of skill," said Arena about the match-up against Germany on Friday.
July 28 in Guadalajara
Brazil 1 USA 0. Goal: Ronaldinho 13.
Brazil -- Dida, Evanilson, Odvan, Joao Carlos, Serginho, Vampeta, Flavio Conceicao (Alex, 68), Emerson, Ze Roberto, Ronaldinho (Beto, 80), Christian (Warley, 46).
USA -- Keller, Agoos, Fraser, Llamosa (Lewis, 68), Hejduk, Berhalter, Harkes (Moore, 57), Stewart, Jones, Kirovski, McBride.
Yellow cards: Brazil -- Emerson 90; USA -- Berhalter 6, Llamosa 35, Fraser 61,
Referee: Frisk Anders (Sweden).
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