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USA and Italy Play to World Cup Draw


The U.S. soccer team played Italy to a 1-1 draw to keep its hopes alive of reaching the second round of the World Cup in Germany.

In a hard-fought, physical game that featured three red card ejections and nearly 40 fouls, the United States held on valiantly to tie Italy, 1-1. The Americans played nearly the entire second half with nine players to Italy's 10.

Alberto Gilardino gave Italy the lead in the 22nd minute with a diving header off a free kick. The equalizer came five minutes later when Italian Cristian Zaccardo knocked the ball into his own net off a free kick near the sideline from American Bobby Convey.

Shortly thereafter, Italian Daniele De Rossi was red-carded for elbowing U.S. forward Brian McBride in the face, drawing blood, and American Pablo Mastroeni was sent off just before the half for a hard sliding tackle. Teammate Eddie Pope got his second yellow card and was ejected two minutes after the intermission.

Under the circumstances, U.S. coach Bruce Arena was proud of his team's effort. "Two red cards (for our team) within a span of five minutes (of actual playing time) is pretty harsh. I really respect our team for the way they dealt with it. There's no way you train a team to play ten against nine for 40 some-odd minutes in the World Cup, and our guys did a tremendous job. A lot of teams would lose their composure and use it as an excuse for not winning on the day or losing, and our guys played with a lot of heart today," he said.

Coach Arena gave a lot of credit to his goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, who made a number of difficult saves throughout the match, especially when the Americans were playing a man down. "That's Kasey. We never have any doubts in tough times that Kasey's going to be there for this team. He came up big today and showed the kind of goalie that we know that he is. He's an outstanding goalkeeper," he said.

And for his performance, Keller was named Man of the Match. But he said for this match, the award should be shared. "I'm only accepting this for my team, because I didn't win anything. This was a total team effort. Those guys bled today for our country and our team. I can't say enough. I'm just glad I could help them out every once in awhile because today was about a team and this award goes to the team, definitely," he said.

And this 1-1 draw against Italy marks the first time in nine tries that a U.S. soccer team has ever gotten a point in a World Cup match played in Europe, or in any game in Europe against the big five nations of Italy, Germany, Spain, England and France.

The draw also means that, coupled with Ghana's surprise 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic in Saturday's earlier Group-E match, the U.S. team is still in the hunt for one of the two group berths for the World Cup's second round. With the Italians, Czechs and Ghana all with three points and the Americans with one, any of the four can advance depending on the results of their final group matches on Thursday. Italy will play the Czech Republic and the USA will face Ghana.

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