How the U.S. Shocked the World

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How the U.S. Shocked the World
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

I bet the bookies in England didn't see this one coming, either. The lucky souls who bet on the U.S. to beat Spain are in heaven as they think about the copious amounts of money they just raked in.

To say this was an upset would be an understatement. But to say this was a miracle would be a discredit to the U.S. team as its victory was not due to luck.

The men in the white and blue executed their game plan to perfection and outplayed La Furia Roja in certain phases.

The beginning of the game was dominated by the U.S.; they came out full of energy and came close with many opportunities that highlighted its biggest weakness: the lack of a clinical finisher.

Charlie Davis is a speed demon, but he is a midfielder, not a striker. Jozy Altidore has the build to be a dominant centre-forward, but he is too passive in terms of taking shots.

Altidore did score a goal tonight, using his size to get away from the defender, but his shot was straight at the goalkeeper and he was lucky that Iker Casillas had inexplicably jumped the wrong way.

But what the U.S. lack in skill, they make up for in athleticism. It was on display the whole night. Michael Bradley and Simon Clarke hounded Spain's central midfielders, specifically Xavi, to prevent them from splitting the defense with through balls.

Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit crowded star strikers, Fernando Torres and David Villa, whenever they received the ball in the box and closed down heroically on numerous shot attempts.

Landon Donovan was all over the field, creating chances on offense and tracking back on defense, living up to his title as the U.S.'s best player and exhibiting his talent for potential European clubs.

The only sour note of the night was an excessive red card handed out to Bradley, which will prevent the energetic midfielder from playing in the final. It's another harsh card in this tournament against the U.S., which will make U.S. fans wonder about possible bias against the team.

As for Spain, they looked like a team that started to believe its own hype and there was a clear lack of hunger that defined their Euro 2008 success.

Del-Bosque's formation and substitution decisions were also puzzling. He played a 4-4-2, with Cesc Fabregas as a right winger who roams to the middle, exactly like the formation from Bosque's Real Madrid days that featured Zidane in that role.

This makes Sergio Ramos, ala Roberto Carlos, the right-winger, which played right into Bob Bradley's hands. The U.S. capitalized on Ramos's advanced position and sprung effective counter-attacks all game.

Ramos had numerous opportunities and failed to capitalize on any of them, which is why it was puzzling that Del-Bosque substituted Santi Cazorla for Fabregas, instead of the more talented David Silva.

Silva would have taken advantage of the copious amounts of space the U.S. left on the wings. Maybe Del-Bosque was trying to give other players more experience, as Silva will probably start in the World Cup.

But in that case, the team would have been better served by starting Cazorla on the right and Fabregas in Xavi's spot, which is Fabregas's natural position. The team were also missing Andres Iniesta dearly, as Albert Riera also failed to take advantage of the U.S. defense on the other wing.

But even without Iniesta and Silva, Spain has more talent than the U.S. and should have won the game. For many years, La Furia Roja has been the standard-bearer for underachievement on the national stage. But now, they are the favorites in any match they play and will have to get used to receiving inspired performances from opposing teams.

After a 35-game unbeaten streak, the team had become complacent and this loss will make Spain better in the long run. It will serve notice that they can't win games on talent alone and need to exhibit the same desire that they showed last year—it had long been missing on the national team.

In a worrying note for Spanish fans, it was near-freezing temperatures at game time, which might have affected the boys from sunny Spain more than the U.S. players. It's food for thought, considering the World Cup will be played in similar conditions next year.

Now the U.S., barring another upset victory, will play another World Cup favorite, Brazil, in the final on Sunday. The Seleção thoroughly defeated the U.S. 3-0 in the first round and will be huge favorites.

But that was before the U.S. pulled off two stunning victories when they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. They will play with that same mentality against Brazil and if the U.S. pull off another shocker on Sunday, its name might have to be mentioned as World Cup contenders.

Outrageous? Sure, but crazier things have happened.

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