U.S. bumps Mexico, advances to quarterfinals of World Cup

Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- By making an almost-unimagined trip to the World Cup quarterfinals, the U.S. team is envisioning the kind of success that always seems to accompany Brazil.

The Americans won a knockout game for the first time Monday, beating rival Mexico 2-0 to make the final eight. That's a place Brazil considers a rest stop on the way to the championship, which it has won an unprecedented four times.

Brazil beat spunky Belgium 2-0 Monday night to advance, too. That hardly is news, especially when the United States joins the elite of soccer on the same day.

''They used to call us the sleeping giant in the old days. I think the sleeping giant has woken up,'' U.S. Soccer Federation president Bob Contiguglia said, beaming with pride. ''Someone said to me this is the World Cup for the minnows. The minnows are becoming bigger fish.''

Senegal already is in the quarters. Japan or Turkey would join the parade after Tuesday's game in Miyagi. South Korea, the other co-host of the first World Cup in Asia, also could get into what used to be an exclusive club if it beats Italy in Daejeon.

Sure, there are some powerhouses still around. Germany, a three-time champion, plays the Americans on Friday. England, the 1966 winner, plays Brazil that day. Spain gets the Italy-South Korea winner on Saturday.

The English could be within star striker Michael Owen, who missed practice Tuesday with a groin injury.

Don't think the Germans will dismiss the Americans too easily in what has been a highly unpredictable tournament.

''The Americans have shown great morale here. No one believed that they would make the quarters,'' German coach Rudi Voeller said. ''But we want to go into the semifinal, no matter who the rival is.

''There will be pressure on us, because we'll be considered the favorites.''

The Mexicans were the favorites at Jeonju, South Korea. They had thousands of Korean fans rooting for them, and they controlled the ball most of the rough game, in which there were five yellow cards given to each team, plus a red card ejection to Mexico's Rafael Marquez.

But only Brian McBride in the 8th minute and Landon Donovan in the 65th found the net. Brad Friedel made a half-dozen superb saves.

''Sometimes in games past, other things have let us down,'' Friedel said. ''But our effort and our heart never were lacking.''

Hours before the game, President Bush called coach Bruce Arena and the players listened in on a speaker phone.

''The country is really proud of the team,'' Bush said. ''A lot of people that don't know anything about soccer, like me, are all excited and pulling for you.''

Now they can pull for the Americans against Germany, which won an exhibition 4-2 in March and beat the U.S. team 2-0 in the France '98 opener.

But that was a disjointed American squad that wound up 0-3 and last in the field. This team resembles the '98 one only in the logo on the jersey.

''We've proved we belong with these teams,'' Arena said. ''There are so many experts. All the experts predicted (something else) and where are those experts? We're here,'' he said.

So is Brazil, which got second-half goals from stars Rivaldo and Ronaldo.

''I was not worried at not having scored so late in the match,'' said Ronaldo, who has five goals in the tournament, tied with Germany's Miroslav Klose for the lead. ''You have to wait and run and try till the very last minute. Hope is the last thing that dies.''

Belgian coach Robert Waseige stressed that his team pushed the classy Brazilians all the way. Indeed, Belgium had one goal disallowed and tested keeper Marcos most of the night in Kobe, Japan.

''Belgium was never a candidate to win the World Cup,'' he said. ''My team left a good impression. We played very well tonight even though we lost.''

Brazil is eager to play England, which it believes will have a more open style.

''I think it's going to be a better match with England because they come stronger in attack,'' Ronaldo said. ''It's going to be a match among equal forces.''

More ticket woes surfaced in South Korea.

Fans camping outside Daejeon's stadium hoping for last-minute tickets to South Korea-Italy discovered belatedly that Korean organizers sold 1,465 tickets on the Internet.

''We've become idiots,'' said Hur Jin-beom, a 26-year-old student who had been camping out since Friday. ''Organizers knew we were here. If they had any tickets, they should have been sold to us.''

Oh Taek-hoon, a 32-year-old retailer, added: ''I'm going to barge into the stadium, whatever it takes, even if I die trying.''

Lin Byung-taik, a spokesman for the organizing committee, said Monday: ''I understand the fans. But our basic policy is to sell leftover tickets on the Internet until the day before match day.''

In a number of first-round matches, there were empty seats inside stadiums. Disgruntled fans had difficulty logging on to the ticket Web site or, later, couldn't get through on phone lines set up to buy tickets.

A 25-year-old man died when he slipped off the platform while watching the U.S.-Mexico game on an overhead television set and was hit by a speeding train in Calcutta, India. Aveek Tarafdar was standing near the edge of the platform when he lost his balance and fell on the railroad tracks. He tried to climb back, but was hit by the train.

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