American hero Clint Dempsey admitted he had no idea his side still had a chance to qualify while teammates said they had planned an honourable exit from the Confederations Cup.
Instead, a 3-0 win over Egypt on Sunday, combined with a 3-0 loss for Italy against Brazil in Pretoria, saw the Americans surprise qualifiers for the semifinal of the eight-team tournament in South Africa.
”I wasn’t aware there was a possibility of getting through,” Dempsey told a media conference after scoring the third and decisive goal for his team, who inched through ahead of the Italians on the number of goals scored.
”It was only after the coach mentioned it to us. We really just wanted to end on a good note.”
Captain Landon Donovan said after Thursday’s 3-0 defeat by Brazil, there was a feeling among the US players they were headed home after losing their opening two matches in Group B.
”But this morning we woke up and thought, you never know what can happen, so let’s go out and play a good game and try to score the first goal.
”At half-time when we walked off the field and they told us Italy were down 3-0, we then knew our chances of going through were realistic.”
Watford defender Jay DeMerit said he did not believe semifinal qualification was possible but also had hopes an early goal would give the team some momentum.
He told Reuters: ”We did just that and when we came out for the second half we said let’s get another early one again and the third one will come. And that happened.”
Egypt assistant coach Shawky Gharib said his players failed to get anywhere near the standards of their first two matches — a thrilling 4-3 defeat by Brazil and then a first win over World Cup winners Italy.
”Our players were fatigued, we had injuries and we were under a lot of pressure,” he told reporters.
Midfielder Hosni Abd Rabou, named player of the tournament when Egypt won the 2008 African Nations Cup, added: ”Three games in six days was too much. But it’s no problem, that’s football.”
The US now meet Spain in Wednesday’s semifinal while Egypt head home to prepare for a World Cup qualifier against Rwanda on July 5. – Reuters