JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - The United States have pulled off one massive upset and are plotting another on Sunday when they look for payback against defending champions Brazil in the Confederations Cup final.
Bob Bradley's men stunned European champions Spain in their semi-final for a famous 2-0 victory by effectively closing down dangerman Xavi and will be keen to keep Kaka under wraps in the same way.
In contrast, Brazil struggled to get past a determined South Africa, needing a Daniel Alves free-kick two minutes from time to break the deadlock and stay alive to defend their title.
Four years ago in Germany, Brazil won the tournament by beating Argentina 4-1 but if the USA play as they did against Spain it could be a much closer affair this year.
A key factor working in the Americans' favour is that they are learning to believe in themselves.
"What we're learning is how to move forward as a team, making sure as a team we're organised. But that is not enough, we have to be able to move ball, create chances, get goals," Bradley said.
"It's not one thing, it's a package. In the last year more and more of our players have realised that if you can put that together then you can compete with the best teams. It's a constant evolution."
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, who was instrumental in helping his team upset Spain, knows they go into Sunday's game as rank underdogs but said it did not bother them.
"We're always going to be underdogs," he said.
"But we have shown that when we come together and do our best, we can do great things. We may not be the biggest or best-known players in the world, but when we come together it's not about that."
Brazil beat the United States 3-0 during the group stages and that is motivation enough for American captain Carlos Bocenegra.
"We almost gave them too much respect and sat back too much," he said.
"It's important to start the game with a lot of energy - we can't sit back and let Brazil control the match."
It will be a bitter-sweet day for Bradley, whose son Michael will miss the game after a straight red card for a lunging tackle in the Spain match.
Otherwise, he has a full complement of players to choose from.
Brazil coach Dunga, whose team have had a day less to recover, is respectful of the United States after their giant-killing semi-final exploits.
"We are anxious as the game approaches which is normal," he said Saturday.
"The US are tactically very strong and dangerous on the counter-attack and raise a lot of difficulties because they can sustain it over 90 minutes.
"They are complicated adversaries.
"We'll try to apply our normal rhythm, keep possession as long as possible and make the best use of our territorial play."
Alves admitted that the USA win had taught his side a lesson.
"In a tournament like this, every team will have their chances," he said.
"Spain's game served as a lesson for us before we took on South Africa, and it will also serve as a lesson for us ahead of Sunday's final."
Despite having seen his side struggle to unlock South Africa, Dunga is expected to send out much the same team with Luis Fabiano up front and Kaka and Robinho tucked in behind him.
With Lucio, Maicon, Luisao and Andre Santos holding the back line and Felipe Melo, Ramires and Gilberto Silva operating in midfield the United States will have their work cut out.
Bradley will once again be heavily reliant on experienced LA Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan controlling the game in the middle, while Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will need to make the most of any chances that come their way
|Coach: B. Bradley|
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