Old foes meet again
Tonight's FIFA Confederations Cup final between Brazil and USA will not be the first time the two sides have met. Far from it. Over the years the North Americans and South Americans have engaged in a long and rich rivalry, one that began with a 4-3 win for the Seleção. Including that inaugural showdown and Brazil's 3-0 win in the group phase just over a week ago, the two have faced off some 15 times in all.
Not surprisingly, the five-time world champions have dominated their northern adversaries, winning 14 of those matches and losing just the one, a historic triumph for the Americans in 1998. FIFA.com takes a stroll down memory lane and looks back at four of the most notable encounters involving these two old acquaintances, including a recent surprise FIFA U-20 World Cup win for a USA side featuring several members of Bob Bradley's squad.
USA celebrated Independence Day in 1994 with a Round of 16 tie on home soil against the tournament favourites. Coached by renowned tactician Bora Milutinovic, the hosts mounted a surprisingly resilient challenge to their illustrious opponents, only losing to a late Bebeto goal.
The match is also remembered for Brazil midfielder Leonardo's infamous elbow on US counterpart Tab Ramos. Leonardo's rush of blood earned him a red card and was totally out of character for the recently appointed AC Milan coach, who has expressed his regret at the incident many times since.
Current Auriverde supremo Dunga was Brazil captain that day and gave his thoughts on the match in an exclusive interview for FIFA.com. "That was definitely one of the toughest moments of the competition," he said. "We had to overcome a very motivated team that was getting better and better all the time, something they've continued to do since then. That game was vital to us winning the Cup a few days later."
This shock win is the only time the Americans have ever gotten the better of Brazil at senior level. The South Americans had been invited to take part in the competition and arrived with a fearsome reputation and line-up to match, with the likes of Romario and Edmundo taking their places up front. For the US, the match was an important part of their preparations for the upcoming 1998 FIFA World Cup France, and the squad they had selected was more or less the same as the one they would later take to the finals.
The US were far from overawed and were rewarded for their enterprise by Preki Radosavljevic's solitary goal. The striker had something of a reputation as a supersub, a talismanic status he further enhanced by coming off the bench on the hour mark and scoring five minutes later. The win took the US through to the final of the competition, where they would lose 1-0 to arch-rivals Mexico.
In what was regarded as one of the best games of the tournament, the US youngsters sprang a major surprise by defeating the South American champions and tournament favourites, who counted rising star Alexandre Pato among their ranks. The US had a trump card of their own in Jozy Altidore, however, and it was the hustling striker who scored both their goals.
Altidore will have another chance to terrorise the men in green and yellow in Sunday's showdown, while Pato will have to wait his turn on the bench. Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley, two other members of the US side that day are also in South Africa, though Bradley will not be taking any part in the final after being sent off with just minutes left against Spain.
4. Brazil 3-0 USA, Tshwane/Pretoria, 18 June 2009, FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009
The Brazilians earned a resounding win in the second round of matches in Group B, seemingly condemning the demoralised Americans to an early flight home. Dunga's side went on to top the section after an equally impressive 3-0 defeat of Italy, while Bob Bradley's men pulled off a stunning revival with a 3-0 victory over Egypt, a result they followed up in style by eliminating the much-fancied Spanish.
Now that the two will be crossing swords again, will it be the Brazilians celebrating in Johannesburg or can the Americans summon up the spirit of 1998 and stun the Seleção and the world one more time?