Often considered the entertainers, but never the victors, of international football, it was time for the USA to have the last laugh as they fought back from a two goal deficit to defeat England in the final of the FIFA World Cup. England were among the favourites to win the competition in Mexico, but USA proved too determined and too strong to overcome in the competition's twenty-third final.
USA were drawn in to a rather competitive group alongside then-holders Spain, high-flying Ireland and Iraq. The Americans were expected to battle for second place, with Spain the clear favourites to progress, and the two nations faced each other in the opening game of their group. Manchester City striker José Ramón García opened the scoring for Spain in the second half, but USA fought back and a late Brooks Lennon goal salvaged a valuable point.
Ireland were expected to provide the biggest threat to USA's hopes of a second place finish, but the Americans were quick to take the lead as Devante Parker found the back of the net within three minutes. Bobby Burpo added a second for USA just five minutes later, but Ireland showed great resilience and character to bounce back. Patsy Moroney's header halved the deficit half way through the first half, and Frank Mulhern's spectacular overhead kick leveled the game on the half-hour mark.
USA required victory against Iran to ensure passage to the next round, but they struggled to cope with their opponents' counter-press. Bobby Burpo was once again on the score sheet as his back heel was deflected in to give his side all three points, and helped claim a place in the top two of the group.
USA Were Unbeaten In Their World Cup Group As They Finished Second
Among the Last Sixteen ties, there were some exciting fixtures as England faced France and Germany faced Spain. For USA, they had a tough task ahead of them as they were drawn against Argentina, who had previously won the competition on two occasions. Argentina took the lead halfway through the first half courtesy of a Franco López penalty, but Bobby Burpo struck back just before half-time. USA had their own penalty in the second half, and Devante Parker converted it to seal a historic victory over Argentina.
Up next for USA was Belgium, and many Americans feared that Romelu Lukaku and Adnan Januzaj would prove to be too much to handle in the quarter finals. This was not to be, however, as USA were in complete control of the entire game, and a goal from Bobby Burpo either side of half-time sealed passage to the semi finals.
While England faced, and comfortably defeated, Spain in the other semi final, USA were pitted against Holland. Holland were huge favourites to win, but USA showed great team spirit, and took the lead through Matthew Pearson in the first half. The striker added a second with twenty minutes remaining and despite Holland's best efforts, they could only manage to score once before full-time. Regilio Boldewijn's goal proved no more than consolation as USA secured a spot in the final.
USA Overcame Significant Obstacles On Their Route To The Final
The World Cup final was always a highly anticipated occasion. With England facing USA, the whole of the world was eagerly watching. USA, as always, were the underdogs heading in the final, but they were hoping that Bobby Burpo and Matthew Pearson could lead them to glory.
England dominated the opening stages of the game, but USA goalkeeper Roberto Castro produced a number of high-profile saves to deny them a goal. However, he could not stop Gareth Alexander from scoring after twenty minutes. Raheem Sterling weaved his way in to the USA penalty box, but his eventual shot cannoned off two USA defenders. The ball fell kindly for Alexander, who pounced to give his country an early lead in the final.
Fifteen minutes later, and Gareth Alexander had scored again. Steven Forde drifted to the right wing where he found space. He teased Matt Miazga, who had closed him down, before playing a deep cross which found the head of Gareth Alexander, before being lofted in to the back of USA's net. England were in the ascendancy and looked like running away with the game.
If ever there was a man who epitomised the fighting spirit of USA, it was Bobby Burpo. With minutes to go before half-time, the American striker linked up with Matthew Pearson on the edge of the England penalty area, with the latter teeing up a shot for Burpo, who halved the deficit with a thunderous effort. It was game on once more.
Fenerbahçe Midfielder Gedion Zelalem Captained USA To Their First Ever World Cup Title
USA brought the game to England in the second half, and both teams fought desperately to secure a foot-hold in the game. Unfortunately for USA, Wil Black was dismissed in the fifty-seventh minute for a second bookable offence, giving England the numerical advantage on the pitch. Leading by a goal and with a man advantage, England were content with holding on to possession of the ball, and rarely pressed forward in search of a third.
USA threw everybody forward, and their never-say-die attitude paid off. With twelve minutes remaining, Cameron Carter-Vickers charged forward from the half-way line with the ball. He rolled a pass to Bobby Burpo who spun around Louis Reed with a sharp feint before playing a ball in to the feet of strike-partner Matthew Pearson. Twenty yards out with his back to goal, Pearson left John Stones and Brendan Galloway in a heap with a sharp spin, before picking out the far corner with a terrific effort. USA were breathing fire in to the game, and it was all to play for once more!
England were shell-shocked. Having been two goals to the good, their players did not imagine any chance of slipping up. In truth, the English players performed well throughout the game, but the Americans showed guile and hunger to fight back, and they were not done with two goals. With ten minutes to go, Matthew Pearson ran at England's defence, causing disarray. He teased one way before playing the ball another, in to the path of Bobby Burpo who was unmarked in the box. America's hero of the tournament poked the ball first-time beyond the helpless Jack Butland to win the World Cup for USA with minutes to go.
England were beat, and they knew it. They mustered a couple more attacks, but USA's Roberto Castro stood firm in goals to deny any attempt to score. The referee blew the whistle after ninety-three minutes, and USA were crowned World Cup champions. It was a proud day for the nation, and manager DaMarcus Beasley gained many plaudits for this achievement. It was certainly a tournament to remember for Team USA.