US treating must-win game as World Cup preparation |

US treating must-win game as World Cup preparation

AP Sports Writer

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) – After two dismal defeats, the U.S. team finds itself on the verge of elimination from a major tournament, It’s a familiar story.

The United States just doesn’t have to beat Egypt on Sunday in its final first-round match at the Confederations Cup, the Americans need an improbable combination: They could advance by beating Egypt by at least three goals, and either Italy scoring three fewer goals than the United States in a loss to Brazil or the victory margins of the U.S. and Brazil totaling seven or more.

Not easy.

“We’ve talked about this whole tournament as a test run for, hopefully, when we are here next year, and from the players’ standpoint we have to prepare no matter how unlikely it might be that we advance tomorrow,” Landon Donovan said Saturday. “It might happen next year that we win the first game or tie the first game and have a bad second game. And how quickly do you mentally and physically get ready for the third game?”

Since advancing to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, the U.S. team has been bounced out of the first round of the 2003 Confederations Cup, the 2006 World Cup and the 2007 Copa America.

After wasting a halftime lead and losing to world champion Italy 3-1, the United States was blown out 3-0 by South American champion Brazil. Sunday’s game is against an Egyptian team coming off a 1-0 upset of the Azzurri. In the only previous meeting, Egypt beat the United States 3-1 in June 1987 at Seoul, South Korea.

“As these last couple of games have gone on, my mind set has been to take this like: If this might happen this time next year, how are you going to respond?” Donovan said. “And so in that sense it’s a very good opportunity and it’s not one that you want to waste.”

In this tournament, a warmup for next year’s World Cup, the U.S. team has gotten more red cards (two) than goals (one). And that goal was on a penalty kick by Donovan.

“When we talk about the experience of these kinds of tournaments, it’s being able to make a quick turnaround to be able to understand what you’re there for,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “Every team arrives, be it the Confederations Cup or World Cup, with high hopes and usually it doesn’t always work that every game goes your way. We hurt ourselves badly with a nervous start against Brazil but now we have to make those kind of adjustments and go for the three points with full commitment against Egypt.”

Egypt opened with a 4-3 loss to Brazil, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to tie the score before allowing a disputed 90th-minute penalty kick.

“We came here to the Confederations Cup and we all knew it was going to be a very tough and strong competition for us,” Pharaohs coach Hassan Shehata said. “In the first two matches, our players did very well and followed all the instructions. Maybe we were unlucky against Brazil, but we did well to beat Italy and now we’re looking forward to the next game. The game with the United States is going to be as tough as the other two games.”

Bradley, like most coaches, thinks teams can come together quickly.

“In these kind of events, it’s no different to the World Cup,” he said. “Many of the players have just finished their own seasons and they can be in all different frames of mind. You come together and something can happen in that first game or two and rally everybody and push the team on and be the spark. Or it can easily be: now it doesn’t go right, there’s a little extra pressure, guys start to get nervous.”