US face Brazil in Confederations Cup final

The United States is excited just to have the opportunity to play in a final. For Brazil, Confederations Cup match is merely the latest in a long history.

updated: June 28, 2009 12:35 IST
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The United States is excited just to have the opportunity to play in a final. For Brazil, Sunday's Confederations Cup match is merely the latest in a long history of championship games.

"For US Soccer, this is a very special day," US head coach Bob Bradley said Saturday. "It's the first time we're playing in a final of a world competition like this, and to play against Brazil _ everybody knows their history _ is extra special."

Five-time world champion Brazil is playing in its fourth Confederations Cup final and seeking its record third title.

"It was important to reach the final regardless of the opponent," Brazil striker Luis Fabiano said. "We were expecting to play against Spain because it was the favorite team and was playing well. But what matters is that Brazil does its job to reach our goal of winning the title."

Last week, Brazil beat the Americans 3-0 with goals from Maicon, Robinho and Felipe Melo _ combined with a red card to United States midfielder Sacha Kljestan. The Americans turned their fortunes around immediately after that game, beating Egypt 3-0 to squeak through from the group stage, then stunning European champion Spain 2-0 in the semifinals.

Beating Spain and Brazil in succession would merit a special place in history for the United States.

The Americans have only beaten Brazil once in 14 tries. Former goalkeeper Kasey Keller kept out the South Americans' fast-paced attack and Preki scored a second-half goal in a 1-0 victory during the 1998 Gold Cup.

Tim Howard will be in goal this time to face Kaka, Robinho and Luis Fabiano at Ellis Park.

"This is a big opportunity for us, and one we don't get very often," forward Landon Donovan said. "There's no promise that we'll ever get back to a final like this, so we've got to try to take advantage of it. If we lose we lose, but we're going to give everything we have."

Asked if he could recall any highlights against Brazil in his career, Donovan brought up a "low-light," as he called it _ losing 7-0 the first time he faced Brazil with the US under-23 team.

"I haven't beaten Brazil on any level," the Los Angeles Galaxy striker said. "It would be amazing to do it tomorrow."

Complicating matters for the United States will be the absence of key midfielder Michael Bradley, who picked up a red card in the final minutes of the victory over Spain. Benny Feilhaber will likely replace the coach's son.

Feilhaber came on in the Americans' opening 3-1 loss to Italy after Ricardo Clark received a red card, and he also played in a recent World Cup qualifier against Honduras.

Brazil coach Dunga is likely to keep the same lineup from the semifinals. Although Daniel Alves gave Brazil the late winner coming off the bench, Maicon is expected to stay at right back.

Luis Fabiano said he has flu and had trouble sleeping after the match against South Africa with a fever, but should be ready to play.

"The United States is a team very strong tactically, with obedient players," Dunga said. "It is dangerous on counterattacks and creates a lot of difficulties for its opponents. The players keep their concentration throughout the 90 minutes. It's a very complicated opponent for us."

Felipe Melo put Brazil ahead after only seven minutes of last week's match with the United States, Robinho made it 2-0 in the 20th and Maicon added a third in the 62nd after the Americans were reduced to 10 men.

"It's a match of patience," Dunga said. "Of course we would like to score early, but that depends a lot on how the match will be played. (The first match) was different. Now they're more consistent. They have more confidence because of their results. We have to impose our rhythm, staying more with the ball and taking advantage of our characteristics."