Houdini was found wearing a US soccer shirt in Rustenburg, South Africa, on Sunday. The spirit of the world’s best known escape artist was there in abundance as Bob Bradley’s team sprang one of the greatest surprises in international football in recent times.
Should you have felt the urge any time over the last few days to pick up the phone and corral your buddies into a pick-up game of basketball with the newly crowned NBA champions, whadda ya think your chances of beating the Lakers would have been?
Bradley’s lads overcame similar odds through no little effort on their own part. And with some major assistance from Brazil the planets aligned and the pair of 3-0 victories over Egypt and Italy respectively, contrived to send the Azzuri crashing out of the Confederations Cup (and into the arms of a tomato throwing Italian public) while sending the Americans singing and dancing into the semifinals of the competition on Wednesday afternoon (2:30pm, ESPN).
Oh ye of little faith (myself included)! None of us gave the US the proverbial snowball’s chance against the Egyptians, who had already defeated Italy and came within a whisker of taking a point from the Samba Boys. Surely there was no way the twice-defeated Eagles could rise to this particular task.
But rise they did, crushing the Pharos with goals from Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey while the Brazilians did their part with a curiously easy victory over Italy in Pretoria.
It was a game the nation needed to bear witness to in these challenging times, but if you thought the country was watching (in Superbowl numbers) the action unfold from South Africa with baited breath, well...
It was reminiscent of 1999 when Michael Johnson won the 200m and 400m in Seville. It was something to behold to see the Texan take his lap of honor around the track in the Spanish city with Star-Spangled Banner aloft and the crowd chanting his name. He was the greatest sports ambassador for America in quite some time.
The following day front pages of newspapers from New Zealand to New Brunswick featured photos of the great sprinter. And at home, if you thought we were all tuned into the great event, you’d be sadly mistaken. The Nielsen numbers showed that the country’s sports minded were tuned into…..wait for it….seniors golf, with no coverage of the action from Seville broadcast in the US.
TV habits and trends aside, it’s on to Wednesday and a meeting with the world’s top ranked team. Sorry to say but it will be the end of the party for the US. I will be so glad for them to prove me wrong.
No matter. On a day when they wore their national pride on their sleeves, Landon, Clint, Jon Spector and Jay DeMerit were superb in a superb team performance. And at the very least, the Americans will return home from the African continent with fond memories and a "can do" attitude for 2010.
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