JOHANNESBURG -- Three thoughts after Brazil's 1-0 win over South Africa in the Confederations Cup semifinals:
• The U.S. can beat this version of Brazil. Give credit to Bafana Bafana for frustrating the Brazilians and keeping this game scoreless until the final minutes before Dani Alves' sick free-kick winner. But South Africa is a pedestrian outfit, and Brazil picked an interesting time to play its least dangerous game of this tournament. If the U.S. can keep playing with confidence (and keep 11 men on the field) in Sunday's final (2:25 p.m. ET, ESPN ESPN2), then we might see a very different game from Brazil's 3-0 beatdown of the Americans on June 18. The fact of the matter was that Aaron Mokoena should have put away his set-piece header inside the six-yard box in the 21st minute, and the U.S. has a few players (Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra) who can convert in that situation. In case you haven't noticed, it has also gotten very cold in South Africa over the last few days, and Brazil's ridiculous turtlenecks reveal a team that isn't entirely comfortable competing in these conditions.
• South Africa can take some pride from its play. For a team that has been criticized mercilessly inside its own country, Bafana Bafana made a good showing on Thursday, and it had dangerous scoring opportunities by Mokoena, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Steven Pienaar. Now that the World Cup stadiums are on the right track and there is zero danger of having the 2010 event moved to another country, the biggest concern here will probably be the quality of South Africa's soccer team. I'm still not convinced that Joel Santana's outfit has what it takes to reach the World Cup second round (as has every host in the history of the tournament), but Bafana is showing a lot more creative flashes than it was a few months ago. Nor will it hurt to have one of the eight top seeds at December's World Cup draw, thus avoiding a grouping with any of the world's (theoretically) seven best teams.
• Let's stop this talk of the U.S. getting a World Cup seed right now. As historic as the U.S.' 2-0 upset of Spain may have been on Wednesday, I don't envision any scenario in which the U.S. would be one of the eight seeded teams at the World Cup draw. The exact formula FIFA will use remains unknown, but it will involve the FIFA rankings and performances in previous World Cups, neither of which bodes well for the U.S. to be considered among the world's top seven teams. What's more, it's time to stop the confusion: There will only be eight seeded teams and no more. The rest of the teams will be grouped in pots by continent.
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