JOHANNESBURG – Brazil’s “Beautiful Game” came alive in the second half Sunday with three comeback goals in a 3-2 win over the United States in the Confederations Cup final.
Luis Fabiano scored two of the goals and Lucio added the third in the 84th minute to give Brazil its second straight Confederations Cup title and third overall.
But it was all looking good for the Americans, playing in the men’s final of a FIFA tournament for the first time, in the first half when Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan gave the team a 2-0 halftime lead.
“You realize why these guys are worth so much at times like this, but it’s still disappointing,” Donovan said. “We are in the position where we don’t want respect, we want to win.”
Brazil really did look like a beaten team in the first 45 minutes, creating little and being constantly stymied by the United States defence and goalkeeper Tim Howard. During that time, the American attack was stretching the nervous-looking Brazil defence, with Donovan working hard to give his team several scoring chances.
Although that quality play managed to give the Americans a hefty lead at half time, Brazil was not about to let yet another title slip by.
“At halftime, we said there was something lacking, some lack of positioning,” Brazil coach Dunga said through a translator. “We corrected that and we pressured our opponent in the second half and we were able to score a goal.”
Luis Fabiano started the comeback in the 46th minute. The striker collected a pass from Ramires before turning and shooting past defender Jay DeMerit for his fourth goal of the tournament. He added a tournament-leading fifth to equalize in the 74th, heading in a rebound after Kaka’s cross was kicked against the crossbar by Robinho.
“We gave up the first goal so early in second half,” United States coach Bob Bradley said. “We really put ourselves in a tough spot.”
Lucio then delivered the decisive goal in the 84th, heading a corner from Elano past Howard.
“We made more use of the wings and we scored goals,” Dunga said.
Dempsey, who also scored in the 2-0 semifinal win over Spain, gave the Americans the lead in the 10th minute by redirecting a cross from Jonathan Spector. Donovan added the second by finishing off some nice passing play with Charlie Davies on a fast counterattack in the 27th.
Spector started the unthinkable after only 10 minutes, running down the right and sending a low cross into the area. Dempsey, who had plenty of room to manoeuvre, raised his right leg and put just enough of a touch on the ball to alter the direction and send it past a diving Julio Cesar.
Donovan then got possession at his own end shortly after Maicon had sent in a corner for Brazil from the right. The United States midfielder ran up the middle, passed to Davies and then reclaimed the ball from his teammate before beating Julio Cesar.
“They turned the ball over, Ricardo gave me a good pass in the middle,” Donovan said. “I gave it to Charlie and he did a good job getting it back to me. Just did the rest from there.”
The Americans appeared to get some luck in the 60th when Kaka headed a cross from Andre Santos to the near post. Howard stepped back into his goal and knocked the shot off the underside of the crossbar and then grabbed it safely in his arms.
Kaka appealed, arguing that the ball had crossed the line before Howard was able to get to it, and television replays appeared to show he was correct.
Brazil has won eight matches in a row, and is unbeaten in 16. The five-time world champions also won the Confederations Cup in 1997 and 2005.
And in 15 matches against the United States, the Brazilians have only lost once – a 1-0 result in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Americans reached the semifinals at the first World Cup in 1930, and made the quarter-finals in 2002. Besides that, its most famous victory before ending Spain’s record 15-match winning streak in the semifinals was a 1-0 win over England at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.
“I think people around the world see that we have a good team, we have good players,” Bradley said. “Hopefully we can continue to step forward.”
In the third-place match, Spain fought back to beat host South Africa 3-2 after extra time in Rustenburg.