Monday, June 29, 2009

Confederation Cup 2009......Samba Football again!!!!

Confederation Cup 2009 has been won by arguably the best football playing nation, Brazil.

This tournament, considered to be the dress rehearsal for the World Cup it precedes, is played every four years, normally hosted by the country who is due to host the World Cup. It is played between the winners of six FIFA confederation championship --> CAF(Confederation if African Football), CONMEBOL(South American Football Confederation), AFC(Asian Football Confederation), OFC(Oceania Football Confederation), CONCACAF(Confederation of North, Central American & Carribean Association Football), along with the FIFA World Cup Winner & the host nation.

This year's tournament, hosted by South Africa had produced a lot of upsets in the league round itself, with current World Champs Italy getting booted out & Egypt giving fancied Brazil a scare in the opening game itself. However, in the semis came one of the most stirring upsets, with USA, a surprise entry into the semis, humbling Spain 2-0. Almost everyone had expected Spain to cruise past the USA for a place in the finals, but the men in white put up a dogged fight, & brought about the biggest upset of the tournament. In the other semis, holders Brazil were made to toil hard to get past hosts South Africa with last minute 1-0 margin.

28th June evening was a soccer treat to watch as Spain took on South Africa for the 3rd & 4th slot & Brazil met USA for the finals. This was probably football at its best for the tournament as all the four sides put up a superlative performance.

In the first match, South Africa, who had lost to Spain 2-0 in the group stages, surged ahead in the 73rd minute through substitute Mphela & looked like pulling through with the match. However, Guiza, another substitute, had other ideas & he scored a brace for Spain in the 88th & 89th minute. It looked all over for the host nation, before Mphela scored once more in the injury time to tie the score sheet at 2-2. In the extra time it was attack vs counter attack as tired legs tried hard to retain balance, & finally Alonso scored the winner for Spain in the 107th minute from a 30 yards free kick. It was all over for South Africa, but they had put up a splendid performance against top teams like Brazil & Spain. For Spain, it was some glory restored after losing to USA in the semis.

The finals, later in the evening, had more drama in store. Before this tie, Brazil had beaten USA 14 times in their 15 meetings till date, & the Samba brand was expected to sweep the men in white. However, USA were a determined lot, & the win in the semis against Spain had put them in top gear, as they started the game withe extra zeal & momentum. They did not allow their more fancied rivals to settle into a rhythm, and against the run of play, scored the first goal in the 10th minute through hard working midfield, Dempsey. One more goal was added by skipper Donovan in the 27th minute, as a result of a counter attack, as the Brazilian defence failed to cover up. USA up 2-0 against mighty Brazil & the crowd stunned to silence. At the lemon break, there were speculations of a major upset, as Brazilian coach Dunga huddled up with his team to give the much needed boost & vocal tonic. After the break, Brazilians were a changed side, the one we all know & worship. A minute into the 2nd half, & Fabiano received the ball just outside the USA box, did a quick half turn & drilled a left footer into the acute left corner of the net. USA goalie, Howard, who had been saving the post like a rock till now, dived in vain. Brazilians had tasted blood & were all over the ground. Waves after waves of Samba football rocked the USA defence & it was a matter of time before the defence cracked. in the 60th minute, Kaka headed in from a goalmouth meelee, which Howard punched out, though the replays clearly showed the ball entering the net. The referee had however blew the whistle in favour of the US. In the 74 minute Fabiano headed in to take the score to 2-2. Brazilians were by then ruling the turf & in the 84th minute, skipper Lucio, headed in from a Elano corner, making sure that the holders kept their reign over the cup in order.

It had been a brilliant display of football by the USA, who had the youngest team in the tournament. Goalkeeper, Howard who had kept the pacy Brazilians at bay on numerous occasions, won the Golden Glove award as the best goalie of the tournament. Fabiano won the Golden Shoe for being the highest scorer, while Kaka won the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament. Brazil also won the Fair Play Trophy.

The Brazilians look a well knit & hungry unit under the coaching if Dunga. The team may not be displaying the legendary skills of Pele, Tostao, Zico, Socrates, Romario, Ronaldo etc but, seem to combine well in attack as well as in defence.

Look forward to some outstanding game of soccer when the World Cup starts in South Africa next year.