RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) – Outplayed by Italy and
Brazil, the U.S. soccer team once again was on the verge of first-round
elimination from a big international tournament.

To reach the semifinals
of the Confederations Cup, the Americans needed to beat Egypt by at least three
goals while the Italians lost to Brazil by at least three.

Astronomical
odds, right?

Well, that’s exactly what happened.

Charlie Davies
scored in the 21st minute and Michael Bradley – the son of U.S. coach Bob
Bradley – added a goal in the 63rd, scoring on Father’s Day for the second
straight year. Clint Dempsey then broke a nine-month international scoreless
streak in the 71st, giving the United States an improbable 3-0 victory
Sunday.

And in a game played simultaneously, Brazil defeated Italy
3-0.

Now it’s onto a semifinal matchup Wednesday with European champion
Spain, unbeaten in its last 35 matches and the world’s to-ranked
team.

“All of the critics in America who said we were no good after
losing to Italy and Brazil, let’s see what they say now,” Michael Bradley
said.

Since advancing to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, the U.S. team
had been knocked out of the first round of the 2003 Confederations Cup, the 2006
World Cup and the 2007 Copa America.

“Big surprise, but we knew we were
capable of this,” Landon Donovan said. “Now we have a difficult game ahead of us
and a very big match.”

The lost to Spain 1-0 in an exhibition at
Santander last year.

“We know the way they can move the ball and keep
possession,” Bob Bradley said. “We played a good first half but they wore us
down in the second half and it didn’t feel too good.”

Brazil (3-0) won
Group B with nine points and plays Thursday against host South Africa. While the
U.S., Italy and Egypt all finished at 1-2, the Americans scored four goals and
allowed six. Italy also had a minus-2 goal difference but scored only three
goals and Egypt was minus-3.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley made three changes,
inserting backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan, midfielder Ricardo Clark and Davies, a
forward from Manchester, N.H., who turns 23 on Thursday. While Clark was ejected
from the opening 3-1 loss to Italy and Sacha Kljestan from the 3-0 defeat to
Brazil, the U.S. finished with 11 players.

Davies scored following a U.S.
throw in. Goalkeeper Essam El Hadary made the save as defender Ahmed Fathi kneed
him in the head, and Davies got the rebound and kicked it in off the goalkeeper
for his second international goal since his debut against China in June 2007.
Davies’ previous international goal was in a 2-1 loss at Trinidad in a World Cup
qualifier last October.

Bradley connected from about 12 yards off an
exchange of passes with Donovan in the 63rd minute. It was his sixth goal in 33
appearances. Dempsey scored the goal that put the U.S. over the top eight
minutes later, taking a 40-yard cross from Jonathan Spector, outjumping defender
Wael Gomaa and beating El Hadary with a diving header from about 7 yards. It
ended a career-worst eight-game goalless streak for Dempsey with the national
team, the longest of his international career. Dempsey, who has 14 international
goals, had not scored for the U.S. since Sept. 10 against Trinidad and
Tobago.

Egypt caught a break in the 52nd minute, when Jozy Altidore’s
shot deflected off goalkeeper El Hadary and toward the goal. It bounced off the
thigh and arm of defender Hani Said and away from the net, but referee Michael
Hester of New Zealand didn’t call a hand ball.

Gomaa had a chance to
score in the 90th minute – and put Egypt in the semis – but his header went over
the crossbar.


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