Brazil and USA seized Group B's tickets to the semi-finals in wildly contrasting manners, as Italy and Egypt missed out on advancing by the slightest of margins. A Seleção took just five minutes to open their account, courtesy of a sumptuous Kaka goal which has been replayed repeatedly on FIFA.com TV, and it proved one of ten goals they would score during three successive victories.
The Americans, by contrast, lost their first two games 3-1 and 3-0 and looked all but out heading into their final outing against Egypt. However, inspired by Brazil's three-goal half-time cushion over Italy, they emerged 3-0 victors to snatch the runners-up berth by virtue of goals scored.
Brazil have two objectives to realise every time they play: to win and to do so in style. Dunga's side ticked both boxes emphatically during a first phase in which a thrilling 4-3 victory over Egypt preceded 3-0 defeats of both USA and Italy. Kaka excelled from start to finish. Maicon and Robinho radiated during their last two games. And although it took Luis Fabiano until Brazil's concluding fixture to turn it on, when he did, he really did - just ask Marcello Lippi.
USA began brightly against Italy, but poor finishing a numerical disadvantage ultimately helped condemn them a 3-1 defeat. It got worse in their next game. Unable to contain the irresistible Brazilians, they succumbed to a 3-0 loss that, with on-song Egypt to play, all but ended their hopes of progression. However, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey thrust them to a 3-0 success that left jaws dropped and both their opponents and Italy eliminated.
Italy may have overcome the ten men of USA, but they stunned by Egypt and overwhelmed by Brazil. It was a hugely disappointing campaign for the FIFA World Cup™ holders, although they can at least take small consolation from the promise showed by Giuseppe Rossi against USA and the energy in midfield of Daniele De Rossi.
It all began so promisingly for Egypt. Three-one down to Brazil, Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohamed Zidan inspired them level until a last-gasp spot-kick snatched the five-time world champions victory. The Pharaohs then produced the shock of the group stage, becoming the first African side to beat Italy in 15 attempts. All of this impressive work was undone, nevertheless, when they lost 3-0 to USA in their final outing to miss out on a place in the last four by a whisker.
Despite expecting to face A Seleção in the semi-finals, a large contingent of South Africans sported Brazilian jerseys, caps and face paint, and roared them to victory over Italy.
When the final whistle concluded USA's 3-0 reverse of Egypt, the look on Landon Donovan's face was one of uncertainty. That expressed was immediately turned into one of euphoria when he discovered the US had edged through to the semi-finals.
What they said
I'm so proud of our American Eagles! Congrats Egypt for a great tournament. You truly are African champs and great sportsmen. In honor and appreciation for the great Brazilians, tonight I will celebrate only with Brazilian beer," FIFA.com user USAFanatic (USA) after a combination of USA's 3-0 defeat of Egypt and Brazil's 3-0 victory over Italy sent the Americans through to the semi-finals.
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