World champions Brazil edged out the USA in a disappointing encounter on Saturday 21 June at the Stade Gerland in Lyons. In their second Group B outing the Seleçao showed glimpses of their usual flamboyant selves but were indebted to the Americans for the defensive slip-up that handed Adriano his goal. In a game where chances and flair were in short supply, the Auriverdes just showed enough to deserve their win, but they will need to buck their ideas up if they are to beat Turkey in a semi-final play-off on Monday. The Americans, meanwhile, are out of the competition and face Cameroon in their last match with only pride at stake.
The Seleçao hardly set the footballing world alight in their first encounter – a first-ever defeat to Cameroon – but coach Parreira nonetheless decided to keep faith with that side tonight. Alex was the only newcomer, taking Gil’s place in the starting eleven. American coach Bruce Arena had been severely critical of his boys’ performance against Turkey in their first match and in contrast to Parreira was ruthless in reshaping his team. Only four of the side that lined up against the Turks survived his wrath and started today’s game.
The opening exchanges were singularly unpromising, with Brazil seeing a lot of the ball but creating little and their opponents looking uninspired on their rare incursions into South American territory. Adriano did get a shot away after a mazy run (7’), but it was not until the 22nd minute that another incident of any note occurred. To the relief of the restless crowd, it was a goal, and a rather comic one at that. Gregg Berhalter was robbed of the ball by the rampaging Adriano and could only watch in horror as the latter then ran in alone on goal. US keeper Tim Howard did well to keep out the striker’s first attempt but was helpless to prevent the Parma man from slotting home the rebound. (1 :0).
Unfortunately the goal did little to raise the tempo of the game. Ronaldinho put Ricardinho in with an exquisite pass, but the youngster’s shot lacked venom (35’). Then, just before the break, Bruce Arena’s stars finally sprang into action - as if spurred on by their coach’s imminent dressing down. First Mathis hit a free kick just wide (43’), then Earnie Stewart rounded off a lightning counter attack by crossing for Landon Donovan, who went down under Belletti’s challenge (45’). Penalty? Play on said referee Cardoso, and half time was upon us.
The Auriverdes were first into action again in the second period. Emerson’s header brought a fine save from Howard (51’), and the NY/NJ Metrostars keeper had to be alert again two minutes later to keep out Alex’s long-range effort (53’). Only then did the US Boys throw some caution to the wind; Landon Donovan got on the end of a superb Steve Cherundolo pass and hit a rousing half-volley that Dida did well to keep out (61’).
That chance only served to make the Brazilians shut up shop though, and from then on the Americans hardly threatened. Ronaldinho came close to doubling the Brazilian lead with a cheeky fee kick round the wall, but Howard anticipated perfectly to save (75’). The US continued to search for an opening right up until the final whistle but to no avail. They can book their tickets home. Brazil, on the other hand, can now regroup and lay plans for a more enterprising display against Turkey on Monday.