JOHANNESBURG -- Pedigree matters. If it didn't, we might not have witnessed what happened at Ellis Park on Sunday, an unstoppable rally that gave Brazil the Confederations Cup title in a 3-2 win over the U.S. (
Certainly, coming back from a two-goal deficit is not the kind of thing you associate with Brazil. (Indeed, you don't generally associate two-goal deficits with Brazil, period.)
"Yeah, we're certainly not used to being two goals down, not when we're playing for the
Dunga wasn't everybody's cup of tea as a player and the purists may still sniff in his general direction. The idea of employing two holding midfielders like
Yet in the first half Sunday, Brazil looked fairly dazed, shell-shocked by the U.S.' one-two punch of
Dunga may no doubt have been tempted to change things around at halftime. The thunder-and-lightning combination of
Then, barely after the second-half kickoff, came Fabiano's goal, a gorgeous swivel and shot which halved the U.S. lead and swung the momentum decisively the other way. The timing of goals does matter and, perhaps, the worst possible time to concede is either side of the break.
Brazil ratcheted up the pressure,
U.S. head coach
"Look, we played well, we gave them a very good fight," said Dempsey after the match. "It's just that they created more chances and scored more goals and deserved to win. Sometimes you just have to accept that."
For Brazil, it's the third Confederations Cup title. And while this tournament may lag far behind the World Cup or the continental championships (like the Euros or the Copa América), make no mistake about it, the players who were here were 100 percent committed.
"Am I prouder of this or of the Champions League [title with Barcelona]?" asked Brazilian defender
Brazil showed a solidity and a cohesion which hasn't always been there in the big tournaments. Credit for that has to go to Dunga. As for the U.S., it was a cruel defeat, but there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The bottom line is that Bradley's crew more than held its own against opponents who were qualitatively on another level. Howard, Dempsey and Bradley are the only U.S. players who get regular playing time in a major European league (though admittedly, Donovan and a few others probably could as well).
This U.S. team is greater than the sum of its parts. It showed a maturity and an intelligence which hasn't always been there in the past. And there are enough players with a sizeable upside who, one hopes, will continue to develop: Bradley, Altidore, Feilhaber and Davies. The trick is building upon what was achieved here in South Africa next summer.