Playmaker Landon Donovan knows USA face a tough task when they meet Brazil in their second FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 game tomorrow. However, the Star and Stripes' all-time top scorer, master creator and stand-in captain is confident his side, reigning champions of CONCACAF, can grind out a result against the star-studded Seleção. Donovan's endearing optimism is contagious in the US camp too, as FIFA.com found out.
"We had the opportunity to see some of their (Brazil's) game against Egypt and I have to be honest, it looks like they're human after all," Donovan told FIFA.com, noting the South Americans' nervy 4-3 win over the Pharaohs in Mangaung/Bloemfontein, a game which highlighted some serious frailties in the Brazilian rearguard.
"We hung with Italy and gave them a hard game, made things very complicated for them for a large part of our first game. I don't see any reason why we can't do exactly that against the Brazilians too. We will have an even better chance if we can keep 11 men on the field," he added, referring to Ricardo Clark's dismissal in their 3-1 defeat by Gli Azzurri.
Donovan, often criticised for going missing in big games, was the major creative force in USA's opener. Wearing the captain's armband after an injury to Carlos Bocanegra, the Los Angeles Galaxy star scored the opening goal from the spot and managed to feed team-mates in a fizzy, mature performance under heavy, and at times rough, pressure in midfield.
Now Donovan's focus is squarely on the next test against world football's biggest name. "Brazil is a good team, a country with a great tradition that everyone knows about," added the 27-year-old, who had a brief loan spell at Bayern Munich during the Major League Soccer winter break. "But this is now a must-win game for us. There's no option for us but to get at them and try to get a result."
Young holding midfielder Michael Bradley, who failed to take advantage of a pin-point diagonal ball through from Donovan midway through the first half, is in total agreement with his skipper on the opening day in Tshwane/Pretoria. "I saw a little bit of Brazil's game against Egypt and I think they're a team that we can match up with," the Borussia Monchengladbach man, son of USA head coach Bob Bradley, told FIFA.com. "In truth, I think we can match up with any team out there. We are the kind of side that can make it difficult for any opponent to play comfortably, and that includes Brazil. We have no choice now. We have to win."
Centre-back Carlos Bocanegra is expected to be back in the starting XI for the battle with Kaka, Robinho, Fabiano and Co. His steely presence in the heart of the backline was missed in the second half against the Italians. He, too, fresh from his first full training session in South Africa, is fancying his side's chances with the Brazil test just hours away.
"If we had 11 players out there against Italy for the whole game, we would have won or tied at least," remarked the former Fulham man, currently with Rennes in France, sweat dripping after a tough session at the Americans' Pilditch training facility.
"Were hungry to go and get at Brazil," concluded Bocanegra, who will take the armband back from Donovan if he plays on Thursday. "It was no fluke that we were up against Italy and pressing them even after going a man down. We want to prove that against the Brazilians. We can fight with anyone. We've played Brazil a few times recently and we've managed to get goals against them, so there's no reason we can't do it again."