USA, without a point and not much hope going into their final Group B game in Rustenburg, managed to pull off mission improbable and book a place in the semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Egypt. Goals from Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey combined with a 3-0 win for Brazil over Italy in the section's other game booked an unlikely last-four place for the Americans, where they will meet Group A toppers Spain.
Egypt looked in the mood to roll over the previously winless Americans at the start, hitting out with the keener verve and asking all the early questions. Their first chance came after only two minutes, but USA keeper Brad Guzan, on in place of regular No1 Tim Howard, breathed a sigh of relief when Ahmed Abdelghani's uncontested try from the edge of the box soared over the bar. Shortly after, in the 13th minute, an almighty scramble in the US box was eventually hacked to safety by Jonathan Bornstein after what looked to be a certain Egyptian opener.
Unfazed, the Americans; hopeful and optimistic before the game despite staring likely elimination in the face, marched right up the other end and opened the scoring. The goal came well against the run of play in the 21st minute, with their first chance of the ganme. Davies, brought on by coach Bob Bradley, snuck in to take advantage of an uncommon fumble by goalkeeper Essam El Hadary - Egypt's hero of their win over Italy - to poke home from close range.
The talented Egyptians continued to control possession right up until the half-time interval, but the USA were looking dangerous. Stand-in skipper Landon Donovan was only denied by a sprawling El Hadary after going on a searing 20-yard run past three Egyptian defenders and Davies would have had his second of the night were it not for the intervention of the Swiss-based keeper once again.
The Americans nearly made it two shortly after the interval when, in the 50th minute, the foraging Dempsey laid in a fine ball from the right. Jozy Altidore collected it all alone at the back post, firing a snapshot through El Hadary but not past Hani Said, who somehow got his body behind the ball to clear off the line. The Americans were immediately up in arms and calling for a handball, but the referee was unmoved by their protests. The US, at this point, were in form control of the game and Bradley, the coach's son, added a second in the 63rd minute. Getting on the end of a sharp one-two with Donovan, he slotted inside the far post to keep up his trend of scoring in big games.
The goal the USA needed to take them through to the semi-finals came in the 71st minute, sending Egypt out of the competition in the process. An inch-perfect cross from Jonathan Spector picked out Fulham man Dempsey, who made no mistake with a flying header. The other Group B match saw Brazil beat Italy by a three-goal margin to amazingly send the USA - without much of a hope at the start of the day - through to the last four. "Soccer is a funny game," Donovan said before the match, "Anything can happen." How right he was.