The United States national soccer team pulled off a miracle today at the 2009 Confederations Cup.
The CONCACAF champions went into their final game of the group stage against the African champions, Egypt, having lost their first two games against super-powers Italy and Brazil.
Egypt, on the other hand, who had put in stellar performances against both Brazil and Italy, went in as favorites to qualify.
The US needed a mathematical miracle to qualify through the group stages. They needed to beat Egypt by three goals. But that's not all, they also needed Brazil to beat Italy by three goals in the other remaining game of the group which was played simultaneously.
Such a scenario seemed practically impossible, and few had the audacity to claim it was within reach.
However, as we learn time and again, in football, impossible is nothing.
The US, for its part, put in a noticeably improved performance in most aspects of their game: technical ability, distribution, passing, and most importantly, heart. Uncle Sam's boys clearly wanted to prove to the world that there was more to their side than the pushover image left behind in their first two games. Their passionate efforts were rewarded with the requisite and much-deserved 3-0 win.
For its part, Egypt could not field its star player Mohamed Zidan who had suffered a hamstring strain against the Italians on Thursday. Homos and Syed Moawad, who had fared strongly for Egypt against Italy, also missed out on the game due to injuries. (Egypt was already missing its two other primary strikers, Mido and Amr Zaki, who did not make the tournament due to non-selection and injury respectively.)
As a result, Hassan Shehata ended up fielding a team with many changes from the Pharoahs' first two games who, to the chagrin of Egypt's fans, looked nothing like the world-beaters who performed superbly against Brazil and beat World Champions Italy.
Everything else seemed to go the Americans' way as well.
In addition to needing a miracle against Egypt, the US needed to see Brazil beat Italy handsomely to the tune of a three-goal difference. Amazingly, Brazil delivered.
And so, against all odds, the US ends up qualifying to the semifinals where they will face Spain.
This dramatic turn of events underscores the volatile nature of football.
Just yesterday, Egypt fans were flying high after strong performances from the Pharoahs, and US fans were flooding blogs and online forums decrying what they feared was a dismal future for their side.
Today, US fans are left buzzing and Egypt fans, who only needed a draw or even a 2-0 loss to qualify, have been condemned to bemoan a seemingly definite opportunity slip callously through their fingers.
In the final analysis, luck comes to the brave. Credit to the Americans, they earned their victory. They came in and did what they had to do, letting the chips elsewhere fall where they may.
The challenge now is to put in a strong performance against European Champions Spain who are favorites to win, proving to all the doubters that the US can mix it up with the best of them.
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