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The United States shocked Portugal with three goals in the first 36 minutes, then held on for the upset at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Korea to move to the top of Group D with FIFA World Cup™ co-host Korea.

The Americans struck early on John O’Brien’s rebound in the fourth minute, were benefited by an own goal by Jorge Costa in the 29th minute and Brian McBride finished a diving header in the 36th minute. The three goals are equal to their 1994 finals total and more than they achieved in both Italy 90 and France 98. Portugal also received an own goal by Jeff Agoos, while Beto notched their first tally. The U.S. will now face Korea in a battle for what could be automatic qualification to the round of 16.

The U.S. got off to an ideal start to the match when Brian McBride headed a corner from the left that goalkeeper Vitor Baia could only parry away. The ball fell right in the path of John O’Brien, who buried the ball into the Portuguese net (1:0, 5’).

Just minutes later Baia poorly punched away Earnie Stewart’s free kick, but as the ball rolled across the open goal, no American could take advantage. Eddie Pope got to it too late to do anything but hit it into the side-netting (8’).

Following that, the Portuguese increased the pace and their pressure as they searched for an equalizer. Sergio Conceicao’s cross from the right picked out Pauleta, but the Bordeaux star’s header was well off the mark (13’). Pauleta slid another header wide when he should have done better from a Figo free kick (22’).

After a terrible Portuguese giveaway, the ball fell to Landon Donovan on the right wing. The young midfielder’s cross deflected off of the head of Jorge Costa and snuck in at the near post to beat Baia again (2:0, 30’).

Buoyed with confidence, the Americans continued to attack, and O’Brien sent in a cross from the left to an unmarked Earnie Stewart. Stewart’s scissor kick was saved well by Baia. But, just second later, Anthony Sanneh’s cross picked out the head of Brian McBride. His diving header left Baia no chance (3:0, 36’).

But, the experienced Portuguese ended the half on a positive note. From a corner, O’Brien’s clearance fell to the feet of Beto, who slotted it easily past Brad Friedel in goal (3:1, 39’).

The first chance of the second 45 minutes fell to Jorge Costa off of a corner kick. With the ball nodded down to him just in front of the goal, but with his back to the target, the Porto defender could only half-turn on it and hit his shot wide (56’).

The ball came back the other way immediately, and it was flicked on into the path of the rushing Donovan. His shot from the left went by the far post from a tight angle (56’).

As the match passed the hour mark, the Portuguese increased their pressure on the U.S., setting American hearts racing a number of times. But, their finishing was questionable, as Pauleta wasted a great ball from Figo (69’).

Ultimately, it was left to an American to put the ball in for Portugal as Pauleta’s cross was stunningly directed past Friedel by a leaping Jeff Agoos (3:2, 71’).

Unable to hold possession, the U.S. was forced to soak up pressure for the final 20 minutes of the match, but the Portuguese were unable to create any real chances. And, the Americans were able to run out the clock on one of the biggest upsets of the FIFA World Cup so far.


La Cancha Soccer Magazine
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