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  • 09:23 AM ET  06.24
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Clint Dempsey (left) and the U.S. fell to Spain 1-0 last June.
Scott Bales/Icon SMI

UPDATE:USA lineup: Howard, Spector, Onyewu, DeMerit, Bocanegra (C), Dempsey, Bradley, Clark, Donovan, Altidore, Davies.

Looks like Bocanegra will play at left back, replacing Bornstein. Otherwise, no surprises.

Spain lineup: Casillas (C), Sergio Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila, Xabi Alonso, Fabregas, Xavi, Riera, Villa, Torres.

ON THE N1 BETWEEN JOHANNESBURG AND BLOEMFONTEIN -- Three questions heading into Wednesday's Confederations Cup semifinal between the U.S. and Spain (2:25 p.m. ET, ESPN, Univisión):


Which U.S. team will show up? Will it be the American team that looked scared in a 3-0 loss to Brazil, or will it be the confident one that pulled off one of the craziest longshots in U.S. history to beat Egypt 3-0 and qualify for the semis? The challenge Wednesday doesn't come any bigger: Spain is the world's No. 1-ranked team, the reigning European champion and the owner of world-record streaks of 15 straight wins and 35 straight games without a loss. The Spaniards have a host of superstars -- Xavi, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Cesc Fàbregas -- and they possess the ball better than any other team on the planet. For the U.S. to have any chance, it will have to keep its own possession far better than it did against Brazil.

Will the U.S. press? In recent years, U.S. soccer teams have regularly applied pressure defense over most of the field like a Bruce Pearl-coached basketball team. But that may not be the best way to play Spain, which has so much technical ability across the board that it could break the pressure with surgical efficiency. The U.S. might be better off trying to clog and contain, especially when it comes to keeping Xabi Alonso from distributing the ball in the attack (most often to Xavi). What's more, the U.S. central defenders (Oguchi Onyewu and likely Jay DeMerit) will have to play deep in this game, simply because they don't have the speed to take any chances with the lightning-fast Torres and Villa. Discipline will be key for the Americans: Midfielders Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark have monster assignments today, but the U.S. can't afford to pick up red cards like it did in the first two games of this tournament.

Is Spain beatable? Sometimes it seems like La Furia Roja is the second coming of Brazil 1970, but the U.S. may be able to exploit some weaknesses. Spain is not particularly good in the air, and the Yanks could use the aerial ability of Clint Dempsey, Onyewu or even Conor Casey on set pieces. (Brian McBride, regrettably, isn't walking through that door.) Of course, dangerous set pieces require good balls into the box, and Landon Donovan needs to increase the quality of his free kicks. Still, Donovan has had a very good tournament, occasionally going on some breathtaking runs, and if he can find the same inspiration today you never know what might happen on a foray into the box. For the U.S.' sake, Jozy Altidore had better rediscover his sharpness, which has been absent during the Confed Cup.

Do the Americans have it in them to shock the world? How do you seen the game playing out? Post your thoughts below, and check back afterward for postgame reactions.

Grant Wahl's new book, The Beckham Experiment, comes out on July 14. You can pre-order it here. You can also find him now on Twitter.

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