Good afternoon and welcome to today's Confederations Cup semifinal. Today's match features Spain, who sits atop the FIFA rankings, and the United States, who recently got embarrassed by Costa Rica.
On paper, this looks like a serious mismatch, but that's why they play the games, right?
Spain comes into this match riding an incredible 15 match winning streak.They're the defending European champions, and beat the United States 1-0 in their last meeting.
That 15 match winning streak is part of a longer, more amazing 35 match unbeaten streak.
To say that the Spaniards come in to today's match with a lot of momentum would be a massive understatement.
The United States sputtered in their first two matches in South Africa, losing by a combined score of 6-1. Then, with Bob Bradley's coaching tenure desperately clinging to life, the US produced a dominating performance in a 3-0 victory over Egypt.
They backed into the semifinals thanks to some offensive impotence on the part of Italy, and were rewarded with a date with Spain.
Which US team will show up? The group that looked atrocious and uninspired against Brazil, or the one that played with desperation and purpose against Brazil?
Which Spain team will show up? The European champions, or the team that struggled to find the back of the net against Iraq?
I played through this match on my Xbox yesterday, with the difficulty on the easiest setting.
The US won 7-1 thanks to five Jozy Altidore goals. There you go, the US will crush Spain like a poorly-made flan.
Team USA! USA! USA!
Howard, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Spector, Demerit, Clark, Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan, Davies, Altidore
Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevilla, Xabi Alonso, Riera, Fabregas, Xavi, Torres, Villa
Jorge Larrionda. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! This man ruined the 2006 Italy-US match with his heavy-handed officiating.
Last time the US saw him, he was busy sending off Eddie Pope for non-existent fouls that he called from 60 yards away.
My REAL Prediction
Despite victories in all three group games, Spain looked pretty mortal against Iraq and South Africa.
There are slim hopes for an upset, but I think a 2-1 scoreline in favor of Spain is more likely.
Iker Casillas and Carlos Bocanegra remind us all to not be racists. Good advice. Kick it out.
By the way, Spain's national anthem is awesome. But, I wish anthems did a better job of reflecting a country's musical heritage. Spain's could have elements of flamenco, and the US anthem should be performed by John Cougar Mellencamp.
Spain takes the kick in their red kit, US in all white. Any good American fan will be cheering for Larrionda to sprain an ankle and be replaced.
Fabregas is taken down by Bocanegra. Hmm, that would have been worthy of a red card in 2006. No, I'm not still bitter. Howard makes a good save to keep the Spaniards out.
A U.S. corner, taken by Landon Donovan. It looked dangerous, but the Americans couldn't get a head to it. Spector steps up to take the throw.
Donovan gets in on Iker Casillas, but Casillas is a step too slow. Donovan then fouls Xabi Alonso, and Larrionda makes his first poor call of the day, giving a yellow influenced by a bit of play-acting.
Apparently Jozy Altidore sent a text to Villareal teammate Joan Capdevilla, warning them of the danger presented by the US team.
Capdevilla responded by saying Altidore's Spanish were not too great. Meanwhile on the pitch, the U.S. is forcing Casillas to leave his box pretty frequently.
Charlie Davies hits a bicycle kick toward Casillas, and doesn't miss by much. This is great for the US.
Bocanegra lifts a great cross into the box, and Davies tries to deflect it onto the far post but doesn't make good contact. Shortly after that chance, Dempsey rips a shot narrowly wide from distance.
This begs the question: Why the hell didn't the U.S. play like this in their first two matches? They would have killed Italy.
Fabregas chests the ball down and volleys it toward Howard. Over the crossbar though. Howard shanks the goal kick out of play and Spain looks to attack once again.
Torres with some nifty cutbacks a la Pavel Datsyuk, but Michael Bradley isn't fooled and relieves him of the ball.
A cross from Fabregas on the ground finds Torres at the far post, but he can't turn it towards the net. That was the best chance of the match so far.
The U.S. defense looks to be far more organized than they were early in this competition. Bocanegra is comfortable, and Onyewu is continuing to play at a high level. Spain is struggling to complete passes in the last third of the pitch.
More surprising stuff from the U.S. They're making short, crisp passes and making the Spaniards watch.
A through-ball to Davies just misses, but you've got to applaud the idea. Where did they learn how to pass like this?
Fabregas splits the defense with a great ball to Torres.
He forces a great save from Howard, but is whistled offsides.
Clark seems a little mixed up in his positioning, he'll want to fix that soon.
David Villa beats Spector to the end line, but Onyewu is there to clean up the mess.
He's the man of the tourney for the US so far.
Unless Altidore scores the five goals that my Xbox predicted.
Donovan on the counter, takes a long shot wide. Gotta take shots to make shots though.
A rarity in this match, the US defense looks disorganized.
Sergio Ramos cuts in toward the middle and the US defense scrambles to clear.
Bocanegra is whistled for a foul throw, something that shouldn't happen unless you're six years old.
The match has changed in the last five minutes.
Spain is now dominating possession and getting the better chances.
Onyewu clears to give Spain a corner, but nothing comes of it.
Puyol steamrolls Davies. This should alleviate the pressure for a few minutes.
GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!! What a shocker! Jozy Altidore takes a deflected through-ball and uses his strength to shield the ball. He turns and shoots toward Casillas, who deflects the ball off the inside of the post. 1-0 to the U.S.! Jozy gets booked for taking his shirt off, but he doesn't care. What a dream start for the Americans.
Bradley looks for Donovan out on the wing, but it's too far in front.
I love this agression from the U.S.
They're the first team to draw blood against Spain in the Confeds Cup.
Ramos with a great cross right to Villa's feet, but Spector blocks the shot.
If Spain wants to come back, they could easily attack down the wings.They've got acres of space.
Clark is taken down from behind right in front of Larrionda, who denies that there was a foul.
He also steadfastly believes that Barack Obama wasn't born in the US and is a Muslim.
Onyewu clears out yet another Spanish cross.
What a great defensive effort from Belgium's favorite American.
Altidore is dragged down from behind by Capdevilla. Yellow card shown, and a dangerous free kick is pending.
Altidore scored his first goal by fighting off Capdevilla.
Donovan lifts the free kick toward the far post, and Dempsey heads wide.
Had he let that ball fall to Bocanegra, this match would be 2-0 right now.
Fabregas again finds Torres in the center, close to goal. Onyewu gets back and boots the ball out for a corner.
To quote the great Lando Calrissian, that was too close.
Bradley finds a wide-open Landon Donovan. Why was he so clear? Offsides by a bit. It was close though. He snuck in behind Pique.
Villa bumps into Donovan, who flops a bit, hoping to draw a card. No dice.
Not entirely sure why Spain has a free kick here...Xavi takes it, and wastes it as Donovan steps in to clear temporarily.
Onyewu again clears a low cross. Howard owes him a big steak dinner after this match.
Onyewu dispatches yet another cross, this time with some sort of strange donkey kick.
He's keeping this defense together right now.
Torres with some great moves down the wing! He cuts into the box and hits a shot toward the near post. Howard makes a great save to keep the U.S. in front.
One minute of stoppage time.
Forget the Egypt match...This is the best the US has looked in months.
Aggressive play, possession, decent defense, etc. It's very encouraging. The US takes the lead into halftime, and deservedly so.
They've been the better team for large chunks of the first half.
Now, if they want to stay on top, they're going to need to make some halftime adjustments.
They have to remember to stay aggressive and not collapse into a defensive shell. Spain will crack that.Also, they're giving Spain far too much space on the wings.
It's taken some great saves by Howard and great clearances from Onyewu to keep this a 1-0 match.
Spain needs to look to decisively win the midfield battle.
They have the best midfielders in the world at their disposal, but Michael Bradley is doing a great job of harrassing said midfield.
Look to the wings, because the middle of the pitch is clogged with bodies.
The defense also needs to find a way to check Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies.
Those two are terrorizing the Spanish back line right now.
Davies has had a few great chances, ditto for Altidore. They're finding space, and the Spanish need to shut them down.
After the halftime orange slices are eaten, we'll be back in action. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...can the U.S. hold on for the upset?
And we're back! True to form, ESPN brings us back to the action just after kickoff. Is anybody else excited that they picked up the Premiership matches that Setanta left behind?
That was sarcasm.
Donovan crosses low in front of the Spain net. No goal, but it wins him a corner.
Dempsey gets a head to it, but launches his shot over the bar while being kicked in the face by Xabi Alonso.
Bet that felt awesome.
David Villa with a shot from 20 yards out. It's all a stretching Tim Howard can do to parry it wide for a corner.
Altidore fumbles away possession, tripping over the ball.
He's still young, he'll learn. I hope.
Sergio Ramos puts a cross in, but it's way too high for Villa. Spector clears the danger.
Another corner for Spain as Xavi blasts a shot off Onyewu's back.
That's what, corner number 37 for them? That's what it feels like.
Xabi Alonso in with the foul, and a free kick to the U.S. from the back.
The U.S. needs to get some possession here, it wil help, I promise. If they can launch just one decent attack, it will force Spain to back off.
Riera shoots wide of the near post. He's having his way down the left wing, but that'll happen when you get as much space as he's been given.
Interesting strategy for the U.S. though, it's not like Spain has the best midfield in the world or anything. What's that? Oh.
Altidore wins a corner for the U.S. Donovan steps up to take it. Not a bad corner, but nobody gets a head to it. The ball bounces out to Ricardo Clark, who wildly volleys it into Lesotho.
Spain is pushing numbers forward, which leaves them vulnerable to counter attacks.
Davies looks to take advantage, but it isn't brilliant.
The attack is short-lived.
Villa launches a powerful shot from distance that knocks out some lights in the advertisements behind the goal. Altidore meanwhile nearly wins a penalty as he is taken down by Puyol.
It was close to being 2-0 once again.
I'm not sure I can take another half hour of desperate defending from the Americans.
This is getting very stressful, but the US is hanging on and starting to counter a little bit.
More chaos in front of the US goal, but Jay DeMerit rides to the rescue!
Riera launched a powerful shot from about 10 yards out, but DeMerit slid in to block it.
Davies misses a golden opportunity...Donovan was open on the left wing, but Davies attempted some fancy stepovers and lost possession.
Ricardo Clark plays the hero this time, sliding in to block a Sergio Ramos drive. This is ridiculous.
Fabregas tries to cut a pass back into the center from the endline, but Donovan, playing deep, heads it clear.
Spain sub: Santi Cazorla on, Fabregas off. Interesting, Fabregas has been pretty good.
US sub: Feilhaber on, Davies off. This is all about ball possession.
Vicente Del Bosque looks like he's eaten some paella that's well past its expiration date.
An encouraging sign for the US as they manage to hold the ball for more than 20 seconds at a time.
GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!! Michael Bradley lays off a pass to Dempsey, who finds Donovan, who finds Dempsey again.
He puts it past Casillas while falling down and makes this match 2-0. What a game from the U.S.!
What a massive change of fortune for the U.S. A team that is lucky to have made it this far is now 15 minutes away from the final and a likely rematch with Brazil.
If they hang on, it will only be their second win over a top-ranked team in history.
Spain sub: Mata on, Riera off. Another puzzling sub, Riera has been great as well.
Feilhaber fouls Cazorla 25 yards from goal and the US will need to come up with some more magic.
Villa mercifully puts his shot right into Howard's waiting arms.
Eleven minutes plus stoppage time to go.
Spain's last loss was in November of 2006.
Earlier today, if you had told me that the U.S. would be the team to end that streak, I would have laughed in your face and called you an ignorant bastard.
Now? I'll buy you a pint.
The US is still pushing forward when they have the chance.
Feilhaber chips a pass to Altidore, but he was just barely offside.
Seven minutes to go as Spector cleans up yet another menacing ball.
US sub: Conor Casey on, Altidore off. If this holds up, Altidore will have the winning goal.
Mata with the cross, but Onyewu shuts the door again.
How many chances has he cleared? 20? 25?
Terrible call by Larrionda! He gives Bradley a straight red card for a clear yellow card challenge.
He's been better than he was in 2006, but still atrocious. This guy is a joke.
the fact that Bradley got the ball, Larrionda just had to continue his streak of victimizing the U.S. with terrible calls.
US sub: Bornstein on, Dempsey off.
It's desperate now, with the Americans wrongfully down a man and clinging to a two goal lead.
The string of expletives I'm launching at the television would make a sailor blush.
Larrionda is in over his head, he's worse than Graham Poll.
Just three minutes of stoppage time for Spain to grab two goals.
It's not going to happen folks.
The U.S. is going to win this one! Let the casual time-wasting begin.
We're in the last minute here and Spain still hasn't cracked the US defense.
This is amazing. Every shot has a body in front of it, I've never seen such passion and energy from an American side.
The US has done it!
They've defeated the number one team in the world by keeping a clean sheet!
Spain's unbeaten streak crashes to a halt, and the US advances to the final.
The Bradley red card hurts as it was undeserved, but the US will be thrilled to advance to the final. Tune in Sunday for that match.