U.S. must avoid loss to Brazil at Confed Cup
CENTURION, South Africa -- Soccer rivalries don't get much more one-sided than Brazil vs. the United States.
A five-time world champion, Brazil is 12-1 against the Americans. The lone U.S. victory was a 1-0 upset at Los Angeles in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"I think historically Brazil is, if not the best national team ever, one of the best," U.S. forward Landon Donovan said Wednesday. "Everyone growing up has watched some film of Brazilian players or the Brazilian team that is exciting to watch from a pure football standpoint."
The United States opened the Confederations Cup on Monday with a 3-1 loss to Italy, wasting an early lead. With a loss to the Brazilians on Thursday, the U.S. would be eliminated if the Azzurri tie or defeat Egypt in the day's late game.
"We understand, in these types of competitions, the importance of the first game," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "But, regardless, the second game will always be key.
"We've given examples of situations where teams won the first game and maybe started thinking too far ahead and ultimately paid the price. We've seen examples of teams that lost the first game and still understood there are two more games to advance. The way our group is looking -- a point in this game may not be enough. So, you take the game as it comes but, certainly, the idea is to play and find the three points."
At the 2006 World Cup, the United States opened with a 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic, then tied Italy 1-1 and was in position to advance with a victory over Ghana. But the Americans lost 2-1 and were eliminated.
During the last U.S. appearance at the Confederations Cup, in 2003 in France, they were knocked out with losses in their first two matches, 2-1 to Turkey and 1-0 to Brazil.
The United States played Brazil most recently in September 2007, losing 4-2 in an exhibition at Chicago's Solider Field. Brazil scored off a corner kick, a free kick and a penalty kick.
Brazil also scored three times off restarts on Monday in a 4-3 victory over Egypt.
"We look closely at the players they send forward and the type of runs they make," Bradley said. "One of the keys to their success from set pieces is the great delivery they get. Elano and Daniel Alves are guys whose service into the box in these situations is very good. We didn't do well enough in that respect when we played Brazil last time and it's something that we will look at closely."
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, sidelined since straining a hamstring during a World Cup qualifier on June 6, was estimated by Bradley at 50 or 60 percent. The Americans will be without midfielder Ricardo Clark, ejected from the match against Italy for a late tackle on Gennaro Gattuso.
"I think typically we have made a change or two -- not great changes but found little ways based upon all the different factors -- to adjust," Bradley said. "Those are the kinds of things that we are working on at the moment."
After allowing three goals for the first time since a 2005 World Cup qualifier against Argentina, Brazil said it isn't overlooking the United States.
"It's a team set up very well, very obedient tactically," Brazil coach Dunga said. "It has proved an adversary very tough to Brazil and to all of its opponents recently. It usually doesn't allow three goals like it did against Italy."
Brazil is trying to break a tie with France and become the first nation to win three Confederations Cup titles. The U.S. is hoping to survive and get to the semifinals.
"We learned in 2006 after losing to the Czech Republic in the first game, only getting a point out of the second game still gave us a chance to advance against Ghana in the third game," Donovan said. "So, Italy is gone now. It was a good opportunity but it's gone and now we have to focus on Brazil."