A lesson in finishing


It’s not exactly news that Brazil is a very good footballing side.

But during their 3-2 win over the United States in Sunday’s Confederations Cup final, the Selecao showed just how much quality and poise they possess.

And just how far the United States has to go when it comes to sealing the deal on the world stage.

Don’t get it twisted. Any fan of American soccer should be proud of the team’s effort today.

The two first-half goals were brilliant pieces of skill – a stark contrast to the goals against Spain, which were more of the lucky bounce variety.

It’s really all that anyone could ask. For the red, white and blue to have a 2-0 lead over one of the world’s best teams at halftime of a FIFA tournament final is the stuff of dreams.

The problem with dreams is that, sooner or later, you wake up.

So I guess that makes Luis Fabiano the bogeyman.

The Sevilla striker scored in the 46th minute to drag the Samba Kings back in the match before adding the equalizer on a rebound header in the 73rd minute.

Ten minutes later, the captain, Lucio, slammed home a powerful header off a perfectly served corner from Elano to give Brazil the match winner.

And they deserved it.

So, where did it go wrong?

That’s the thing. I’m not so sure it did.

Sure, the U.S. came out of the locker room a bit more tentative with the two-goal cushion. But why wouldn’t they? There’s no need to push so many men forward with a big lead when killing off the game would serve just as well.

No, on most days, two goals would have been enough.

The credit here goes to Brazil. I’m not sure what Dunga said at the half to light a fire under his squad, but the Selecao  looked as good as I’ve seen them since their World Cup run in 2002.

Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva slammed the door on any U.S. attacks in the midfield and Luis Fabiano kept flashing the form that made him one of La Liga’s most feared strikers.

They came forward in wave after beautiful wave, sliding the ball into the middle, then out to the wings and then in to Tim Howard’s box.

You could see it coming. After the first goal, I knew that No. 2 was on the way. After the second, I hoped we could get it to extra time.

But it didn’t happen.

I’m disappointed, sure. But the overwhelming emotion for me is pride.

We were robbed against Italy, got waxed by Brazil, thumped Egypt, out-gutted Spain and then stood toe-to-toe with Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup.

I’ll take that anyday.

And I’m taking something else with me from this tournament.


Because, if all goes well, we’ll be back on these fields next year, playing for the biggest prize in world sport – the World Cup.

I can think of no better preparation than what we’ve just endured.


4 Responses to “A lesson in finishing”

  1. Flagan Says:

    I spent a winter working in Brazil (it was summer there). Their soccer leagues compare to our baseball. Series A is the majors, series B is triple A, and series C is double A. The city I stayed in won the Series B title while I was there.

    On most nights I ate supper at a restaurant with tables in an outdoor courtyard separated from mainstreet by a wrought iron fence. The sidewalk would be teeming with foot traffic and the street with bumper to bumper traffic. The night of the championship game the streets were empty. Everybody was in front of a tv. I watched the game at friend’s house. His name is Oziel. Another friend from work, Lucio, was there as well as about 10 guys I didn’t know. Oziel translated everything the announcer said for me. Our city won the championship 1-0 on a late goal. The street filled up after the game and the party lasted until nearly daybreak. When I asked Oziel about going back to my hotel to get a little sleep before going to work he said not to worry that the next day would be a holiday. Amazingly, he was right. Nothing was open.

    I tell you this so you might get an idea what soccer is like in Brazil. Everybody grew up playing soccer and is a fan. This country’s sports fans are divided amongst many sports, in Brazil there is only soccer. The pro basketball teams were allowed a maximum of two American players per team and these two were generally the best players on the team. Our city’s two Americans stayed at the same hotel as me and went largely unnoticed. Their games were played in a high school sized gym. The soccer stadium’s capacity was half the city’s population.

    They do not respect US soccer. They fervently believe that they are the best in the world. To lose to us in a finals would be unacceptable. It is this belief that allowed them to come rolling back from a 2-0 halftime deficit.

  2. Flagan Says:

    Another lesson in finishing occurred last night that I’m sure you enjoyed as much as I did. The greatest comeback in Orioles history. Down 10-1 entering the 7th vs. the Red Sox, the Os scored 5 runs in each of the last two innings to win 11-10.

  3. randycapps Says:

    Yeah, it must be something special to experience the beautiful game in Brazil.

    In 2014, at the World Cup, I plan to take it in myself. I don’t know how yet, but that’s my plan.

    As for the O’s, the 10-1 comeback was huge. It’s just too bad that we had to gag up a 5-1 lead in the 9th the next day. Winning that three-game set would have been sweet.

  4. Flagan Says:

    When you go find an outdoor restaurant bordering a busy street. Then spend several hours people watching while enjoying churrasco (pronounced shoo-roscoe). They cook several different types of meat on large skewers and bring the skewers to the table as the food becomes ready. They will also bring dishes of potato salad, black beans, etc. to be shared by all at the table. If you partake of the evil spirits order a caipirinha (pronounced cap-a-ree-nee).

    I hope you have as good a time as I did.

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