JOHANNESBURG—United States head coach Bob Bradley is normally an all-business type who always seems to answer media questions with a serious tone and rarely smiles in the public eye. How ironic, then, that two days before the most momentous match in his career—the Confederations Cup final against Brazil—Bradley was jocular, if not downright giddy, at his afternoon press conference.
The good mood was apparent before even the first question had been asked. Bradley sat down at the dais with U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra on his right. For some reason, the arrangement felt odd for Bradley and he asked Bocanegra to switch, which raised some inquisitive eyebrows in the room.
“I feels wrong,” Bradley explained. “Carlos plays on the left.”
The media cracked up, a rare occurrence at U.S. press briefings here in South Africa.
Right away, though, Bradley got down to the business at hand: discussing the team’s preparation for the Brazil game, a rematch of a group game played last Thursday. In that tilt, Brazil trounced the U.S., 3-0.
“We have watched Brazil so many times,” Bradley said. “The first thing you take away from them is the talent and the ability of players to create opportunities.”
This is, of course, a different U.S. team from the one that played eight days ago. Then, they were “timid” and “tentative,” the words used by the U.S. camp to describe the first Brazil match. Now, they are oozing confidence, and in the wake of South Africa’s valiant effort in the other semifinal, feel they have a good chance at a victory.
“South Africa did a very good job of frustrating Brazil,” Bradley said. “The distance between the backline and the midfield was very tight, which meant that Kaka’ and Robinho had to float.”
Sunday will mark the U.S. team’s first final in a major international competition. But the U.S. side will be without regular holding midfielder Michael Bradley, who picked up a red card late in the game against Spain. Ricardo Clark looks set to maintain his place in the middle, and Bob Bradley has options for young Bradley’s replacement, including Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, and Jose Francisco Torres.
“The leading candidate is Benny,” Bradley said.
Regardless of whether Michael Bradley were in the lineup or not, the game is going to be an uphill battle for the Americans. Still, their looseness indicates a newfound confidence that could see them pull off a second massive upset. But there are still two days before kickoff, a fact that caused another good laugh during the press conference.
A journalist misspoke and asked the side could pull off another miracle “tomorrow,” which would be Saturday. Bradley smiled and replied:
“The miracle we’re shooting for is Sunday. If we’re really good on the day before the game, it doesn’t mean shiznit.”
Although it would require some research to confirm this as fact, it is believed this is the first time Bradley has used the word “shiznit” in public. Just in time for the biggest game of his career.
Greg Lalas, Goal.com
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