Pressure for the United States in football is very much a new experience. But after their exploits at the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ Korea/Japan, and because of the 2-1 loss to Turkey, Bruce Arena’s men will go into their second match of the FIFA Confederations Cup with that feeling weighing heavily on their shoulders. And the team waiting for them in that crucial clash in Lyon is none other than the world champions Brazil.
A Californian life .
American hero Landon Donovan, whose only appearance against Brazil ended in a 2-1 defeat in Pasadena in 2001, believes the US must improve dramatically on their first match if they are to get anything out of the make or break game and stay in the tournament.
“There’s a reason they (Brazil) are the best team in the world but they’re beatable as we saw last night,” he told FIFA.com. “The coach (Arena) said we are not even going to go over Brazil. We don’t know how they will play or what team they will choose as there were a lot of new faces out there against Cameroon. We’ve just got to get ourselves sorted out.
“We watched a lot of the tape and I think we played pretty poorly. We had our chances but the ball didn’t bounce the right way. On another day we could have got something out of it. But we cannot complain about the result.”
Brazil also flattered to deceive in their opening match, falling to a late wonder strike from Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o. The two losing teams know a further defeat will mean an early flight home.
“We want to at least get a point against the Brazilians,” added Donovan. “If we can sneak a win, it would be great, but they’re the world champions so it will be difficult.”
Ability and desire
By his own admission Donovan did not have the best of games on his reappearance to the world football scene after Korea/Japan. But several fleeting moves confirmed the fact that he possessed the skill, technical ability and desire to go all the way in the game. DaMarcus Beasley may have put his head to the ball in the 36th minute to give the USA the lead, but the goal was manufactured by the San Jose Earthquakes’ midfielder as he skipped past one tackle on the left-edge of the box before sending in a fast, inch-perfect cross on to the winger’s forehead.
“I didn’t have a great game,” the 21-year-old confessed. “Some aspects were good: in the final third, I delivered passes that were dangerous but overall I didn’t have energy.”
The Californian admits to some tiredness of both body and mind due to the weight of fixtures being played and departing in the middle of the MLS season.
“It’s very difficult to play these games in the middle of the season as we did last year for the World Cup. We miss a large chunk of the MLS season and we have the Gold Cup next month, which I don’t know if I will be a part of, but it’s tough.
Club versus country
“It is completely different to play with the national team than with your club side. There’s such a short space of time to gel and get yourself prepared. At club level it’s easier, you’re always with the guys, they know how you want the ball played and you know how they want it played.
“But the game’s a lot faster at international level and the level’s a lot higher. There’s usually a one goal difference between teams and one mistake can make or break a game.”
Bruce Arena has never been afraid to change his formation or line-up and it will be interesting to see what changes are made against Brazil. But whatever the personnel, one thing is for sure: the Selecao will face a pumped up American team on Saturday anxious to confirm they are, as their FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking position of 9th suggests, one of the game’s top teams and that Korea/Japan 2002 was not a one-off performance.