U.S. wins border war
Americans upset Mexico 2-0 to reach Cup quarterfinalsPosted: Monday June 17, 2002 2:06 AM
Updated: Monday June 17, 2002 8:31 AM
JEONJU, South Korea (AP) -- The United States has arrived among the world soccer powers, pulling off upsets and defying expectations. Even President Bush has noticed.
Brian McBride and Landon Donovan scored on counterattacks to lead the Americans to a 2-0 victory over Mexico on Monday and into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
"When I got to the locker room, I said, 'This is really weird,'" Donovan said. "It's like it's not happening. It's like a dream."
It is the best showing for the U.S. team since the first World Cup in 1930, when it beat Belgium and Paraguay in the first round, then lost to Argentina 6-1 in the semifinals.
Before the game, Bush called the team and told coach Bruce Arena he was confident the Americans would win. (Bush calls Arena before Mexico clash.)
"The country is really proud of the team," Bush said. "A lot of people that don't know anything about soccer, like me, are all excited and pulling for you."
The American players, unaccustomed to attention in their own country, were surprised when they found out the president was on the speaker phone.
"We were thinking -- which president?" Donovan said. "That was awesome. You could tell he genuinely cared."
The United States next plays on Friday against Germany, a three-time World Cup champion that pushed the Americans around during a 2-0 victory in the first round at the 1998 World Cup, when the U.S. team finished last in the 32-nation field. (Germans see tough game vs. U.S.)
"They used to call us the sleeping giant in the old days. I think the sleeping giant has woken up," U.S. Soccer Federation president Bob Contiguglia said. "Someone said to me this is the World Cup for the minnows. The minnows are becoming bigger fish."
It was a shattering loss for Mexico, which dominated its North American neighbor on the soccer field until recent years. The United States was 0-21-3 against the Mexicans from 1937-80, but since 1991 the Americans have gone 9-6-5. This was the teams' first meeting in a World Cup. (Loss to U.S. stuns soccer-mad Mexicans.)
"We played very good football, but in football, you win by scoring goals and we didn't score any," Mexican forward Jared Borgetti said. "The United States has a very good team, very fast with a very dangerous counterattack."
While the Mexicans held the ball for almost 70 percent of the game, they couldn't get it past goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who had another brilliant performance for his first World Cup shutout. He got some help on a non-call.
Portuguese referee Vitor Melo Pereira failed to see U.S. midfielder John O'Brien punching the ball out of danger on a corner kick in the 57th minute, one of four corners in a three-minute span.
"A great header, wasn't it?" Friedel said with a smile. "The referee made the decision. I took a double-take, maybe. When I saw it, I didn't believe it. This happens in a game. We've been on the wrong side of a lot of decisions, too."
The Mexicans were incensed they weren't awarded a penalty kick.
"They showed the replay on the big screen and we saw it, 40,000 fans saw it," Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said.
O'Brien admitted his hand hit the ball, bringing back memories of the "Hand of God" goal by Argentina's Diego Maradona against England in the 1986 World Cup.
"It was a freak play," O'Brien said. "It was a situation where you're trying to mark your man, and someone comes up underneath you and hits your arm. I didn't do it on purpose."
McBride beat goalkeeper Oscar Perez from 12 yards out in the eighth minute after U.S. captain Claudio Reyna -- playing right midfield instead of in the center in Arena's revamped lineup -- made a fine run.
Reyna crossed to Josh Wolff, near the goal line, and Wolff flicked the ball back to an open McBride, who hit the left side of the net with a hard right-footed shot.
"I made it hoping he would be there, that he would be in that space," Wolff said.
McBride said: "I knew if there was an opportunity for me to get the ball, it was on a layback like that."
With the Mexicans pressing, Donovan scored in the 65th minute on a header from just inside the 6-yard box off a cross from Eddie Lewis, who had sped upfield. Donovan then whipped off his shirt to celebrate.
"It was all Eddie," Donovan said. "It's hard to miss balls like that."
The Americans, playing on just two days' rest, bounced back from Friday's 3-1 loss to Poland, their final first-round game. They advanced to the second round only because South Korea upset Portugal 1-0, allowing the United States to finish second in its group.
These Americans are far different from U.S. teams of the past, in talent and temperament. They proved it from the start of the World Cup when they shocked Portugal, the world's fifth-ranked team, 3-2 for the first of many upsets at the tournament.
Powerhouses Argentina, Portugal and defending champion France already have been eliminated, while upstarts such as the United States, Senegal and co-hosts South Korea and Japan are alive.
Still, the Americans are searching for respect.
"I don't think we had any coming into the World Cup. I don't think we had any coming out of the first round," forward Clint Mathis said. "We may not get any for coming this far."
While the Mexicans usually have the home-field advantage, even in the United States where Mexican-Americans dominate the stands, there were several thousand U.S. fans at Jeonju World Cup Stadium, a half-world from home. Many of them taunted Mexico with chants of "Adios, amigos." (U.S. again faces hostility.)
U.S. players noticed. At the end of the game, they sprinted off the field to congratulate each other, raising their hands high, while their families -- sitting right behind the bench -- cheered them on. Then, as Donovan jumped on Friedel's shoulders, they walked to the end of the field and saluted the Americans in the stands, many clad in the Stars and Stripes.
The Mexicans walked straight off, not even staying for the traditional exchange of shirts with their opponents.
Already, the Americans were thinking about Germany.
"We understand that they are the overwhelming favorites," Arena said. "On paper, it looks to be no match. However, we don't play this game on paper."
Notes: McBride and Donovan became the first Americans to score twice in one World Cup since Bert Patenaude had four goals in 1930. ... Friedel made a pair of point-blank saves on Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the 35th minute. Ramon Morales had an open net to shoot at from the middle in the 15th minute, but hooked the shot just wide. ... Gregg Berhalter, Pablo Mastroeni, Lewis and Wolff joined the starting lineup, with Berhalter making his World Cup debut. Left back Frankie Hejduk was suspended for getting two yellow cards and central defender Jeff Agoos was hurt in Friday's 3-1 loss to Poland. ... Stewart came on as a second-half sub for his 10th World Cup appearance, a record for American players.
Great day for U.S. soccer, says Arena
United States coach Bruce Arena described his side's advance to the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Monday as a great day for U.S. soccer and another sign that the world of soccer is shrinking.
"Our guys left everything on the field today. I'm very proud of them," he said after his team beat regional rivals Mexico 2-0 to reach the last eight of the tournament.
"It's a great day for U.S. soccer," he said, adding:
"There's no longer an established football world. The world of soccer, the world of football is shrinking."
He said that the big teams like Brazil, Germany, England and Italy were still there, but he added:
"We can compete with those countries on a given day.
"Have we arrived? No...but the gap is closing."
Arena said it was difficult bouncing back from Friday's 3-1 defeat by Poland in their final group game.
"It was tough getting our guys back from the game on Friday after losing to Poland," he said. "We only had a short period to recover physically."
He said Mexico, who won group G, were a strong team.
"It was a hard fought match...They played well against a great Mexican team, who have impressed everyone at the World Cup.
He rejected suggestions the United States had been lucky in the tournament, saying that Mexico had been a group winner and his team had beaten Portugal in their opening game.
"We beat one of the top five teams in the world in our opening game and were the only team to get a point off [co-hosts South] Korea.
"We have had some impressive results in this World Cup, I wouldn't call that lucky."
Looking ahead to the quarterfinals clash between the United States and Germany on Friday, he said:
"We've got a very difficult opponent in Germany on Friday but I think when Friday comes round our team will be ready to play.
"I think our fitness paid off [today] and that's certainly going to be important against the Germans, whose physical presence is very impressive.
"On paper it looks to be no match. However we don't play this game on paper," he said.
Commenting on changes in his starting lineup, he said: "We needed some fresh legs in there today."
He said Mexico and the United States knew each other well. "It's a rivalry. We know each other and there's been a lot of bad blood over the years but when the game's over we're friends again."
He said the CONCACAF region, which includes both Mexico and the United States, was not given proper credit for its abilities.
"In all honesty, I think our region is very under-rated around the world."
"No one believed in our team except our team," he added.
The United States recalled striker Josh Wolff, who scored in the team's qualifying victory over Mexico last year, for Monday's match in place of Clint Mathis.
They called in defenders Pablo Mastroeni and Gregg Berhalter to replace injured center back Jeff Agoos and suspended right back Frankie Hejduk. Eddie Lewis came in for Earnie Stewart.
Aguirre: Mexico unlucky in U.S. defeat
Mexico were unlucky to lose 2-0 to the United States in the World Cup second round on Monday, said coach Javier Aguirre pointing to a clear handball in the penalty area that was missed by the referee.
"We were unlucky. We conceded the goals at the worst possible time for us. That changed the situation very quickly," he said.
"Then just when we were getting back on top of the game, there was a very unfortunate decision by the referee.
"There was a hand in the air, the referee didn't see it but it was on the big screen and 40,00 spectators saw it."
Mexico were trailing 1-0 to an eight minute goal by Brian McBride when midfielder John O'Brien clearly handled the ball in the area from a corner, but Portuguese referee Vitor Melo Pereira missed the incident and the Mexican appeals were in vain.
Landon Donovan added a second for the U.S. with a close-range header on 65 minutes to seal the victory over their neighbors.
But Aguirre was frustrated by what he saw as negative tactics with the U.S. looking to score on the counterattack.
"They didn't want to play, they didn't let us play," said Aguirre. "Croatia and Italy came out to play. They [the U.S.] set out not to lose. They got a couple of quick goals on the break and their plan worked.
Mexico had topped group G after beating Croatia 1-0 in their opening match and then downing Ecuador 2-1. They were also just five minutes away from recording a famous victory over Italy when substitute Alessandro Del Piero popped up with the equalizer.
But asked about Mexico's performance at the finals, Aguirre said: "We came here to improve on our 13th place in France and the 13th place we obtained in the U.S. I don't know how we did but I think we fulfilled a promise -- no more, no less."
Mexico 0 United States 2 - result
World Cup, second round
Scorers: Brian McBride 8, Landon Donovan 65
Mexico - Rafael Marquez 88
Mexico: Manuel Vidrio 36, Luis Hernandez 67, Cuauhtemoc Blanco 70, Alberto Garcia Aspe 81, Salvador Carmona 84
United States: Eddie Pope 26, Pablo Mastroeni 47, Josh Wolff 50, Gregg Berhalter 53, Brad Friedel 83
Halftime: 0-1; Attendance: 36,380
Mexico (4-4-2): 1-Oscar Perez; 7-Ramon Morales (15-Luis Hernandez 28), 5-Manuel Vidrio (13-Sigifredo Mercado 46), 4-Rafael Marquez, 11-Braulio Luna; 21-Jesus Arellano, 16-Salvador Carmona, 6-Gerardo Torrado (8-Alberto Garcia Aspe 78), 18-Johan Rodriguez; 10-Cuauhtemoc Blanco, 9-Jared Borgetti
United States (4-4-2): 1-Brad Friedel; 23-Eddie Pope, 22-Tony Sanneh, 4-Pablo Mastroeni (16-Carlos Llamosa 90), 3-Gregg Berhalter; 5-John O'Brien, 7-Eddie Lewis, 10-Claudio Reyna, 21-Landon Donovan; 15-Josh Wolff (8-Eddie Lewis 59), 20-Brian McBride (13-Cobi Jones 79)
Match referee: Vitor Melo Pereira (Portugal)
Linesmen: Carlos Matos (Portugal), Egon Bereuter (Austria)
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