RUSTENBURG, South Africa - Outplayed by Italy and Brazil, the U.S. soccer team once again was on the verge of first-round elimination from a major international tournament.
To reach the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, the Americans needed to beat Egypt by at least three goals while the Italians lost to Brazil by at least three.
Astronomical odds, but that's exactly what happened.
Charlie Davies scored in the 21st minute and Michael Bradley, the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, added a goal in the 63rd, scoring on Father's Day for the second straight year. Clint Dempsey then broke a 9-month international scoreless streak in the 71st minute, giving the United States an improbable 3-0 victory yesterday.
And in a game played simultaneously in Pretoria, Brazil defeated Italy, 3-0.
Now it's on to a semifinal match for the United States, on Wednesday in Bloemfontein with European champion Spain, unbeaten in its last 35 matches and the world's top-ranked team. Brazil, winner of Group B with a 3-0 record, will meet host South Africa on Thursday. The final (in Johannesburg) and third-place games will be played next Sunday.
"All of the critics in America who said we were no good after losing to Italy and Brazil, let's see what they say now," Michael Bradley said.
"Big surprise, but we knew we were capable of this," U.S. captain Landon Donovan said. "Now we have a difficult game ahead of us and a very big match."
U.S. coach Bob Bradley made three lineup changes, inserting backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan, midfielder Ricardo Clark and Davies, a forward. While Clark was red-carded from the opening 3-1 loss to Italy and Sacha Kljestan from the 3-0 defeat to Brazil, the U.S. team finished this game with all of its 11 players.
Davies scored following a U.S. throw-in. Goalkeeper Essam El Hadary made the save as defender Ahmed Fathi kneed him in the head, and Davies got the rebound and kicked it in off the goalkeeper for his second international goal.
Bradley, who played with Borussia Mondchengladbach in Germany's Bundesliga last season, connected from about 12 yards off an exchange of passes with Donovan in the 63rd minute. It was his sixth goal in 33 international appearances.
Dempsey, of Fulham in England's Premier League, scored the goal that put the United States over the top 8 minutes later, taking a 40-yard cross from Jonathan Spector, outjumping defender Wael Gomaa and beating El Hadary with a diving header from about 7 yards.