After earning a surprising ticket to the semifinals, the U.S. national soccer (football) team now takes on the world's number one ranked team Spain for the right to play the Confederations Cup final.
The USA is in the southern city of Bloemfontein, preparing for an unexpected semi-final showdown with Group A winner Spain.
The Spanish are widely recognized as the best team in the world, and come into the match riding a 35 game unbeaten streak. The Red Fury, as the team is known to its supporters, could break the international mark for consecutive unbeaten games with a win against the Americans Wednesday night.
American forward Charlie Davies says the Spanish will pose a staunch test, but in soccer any team can win on any given day.
"Spain's a big test right now, the best team in the world right now, thirty five games unbeaten, so it's definitely easier for us to go into the game knowing hey, maybe it's their time to lose," he said.
The Americans got through to the semifinals in dramatic fashion Sunday by defeating Egypt in their final match of the first round, with Davies scoring the Americans' first goal. The 3-0 victory gave the Americans just the margin they needed, combined with Brazil's identical 3-0 victory over Italy in the other group match, to edge out the Egyptians and Italians on goal differential and goals scored tiebreakers.
The Americans will be buoyed by recent experience. They played the Spaniards last year in a friendly match in Santander, Spain, and acquitted themselves well in a 1-0 loss. But midfielder Michael Bradley says this time around will be even tougher.
"We played them this time last year. We lost 1-0 but there were chances in this game," said Bradley. "Obviously you play them in the semifinal of a big competition and you know it's gonna be that much more competitive, that much harder."
Written off after two opening losses to Italy and Brazil, the Americans say the pressure is off them. The trip to South Africa is likely to now be considered a success, especially if the Americans can match or improve on their best ever third place finish at the 1999 Confederations Cup.
Despite the general consensus that the US faces an almost impossible task Wednesday, team captain Landon Donovan says the players are not ready to concede defeat.
"It's a good team, a very good team, but we're not willing to write it off and say it's a loss yet," he said. "We're gonna go for it."
In the other semifinal match Thursday, South Africa takes on perennial power Brazil. The winner of each semifinal match will earn a ticket to the final, to be played on Sunday in Johannesburg. The semifinal losers will contest a third place match in Rustenburg, also on Sunday.