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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Goodbye American dream
American fans after defeat to Germany in Unsal
American fans saw their team surpass expectations
BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach

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America may be slow to catch on to their side's soccer stars, but at least the rest of the world will now sit up and take notice of Bruce Arena's side.

With a little more luck, or against a keeper less capable than Oliver Kahn, this could have been the day on which football was born in the USA.

Instead, most US sports fans, having slept through their side's quarter-final clash with Germany, will probably have glanced at the result with a dismissive snort.

Landon Donovan
Landon Donovan starred against Germany
America has no time for sporting losers, but this 1-0 reverse at the hands of three-times World Cup winners Germany hardly tells the tale of American progress.

Coming into this game, the Germans boasted 51 World Cup wins to USA's six.

But for the opening 20 minutes it was hard to tell which side boasted the pedigree.

When the USA team attacks at pace, there are few teams who would not struggle to cope.

Without the ball, Arena's side at times look like a bunch of amateurs.

But this World Cup has been a major learning curve for USA and they deserved better against a German side who have moved into the semi-finals despite failing to produce their best form.

In Landon Donovan, the USA have a gem on their hands.

Donovan's scheduled appearance on the front page of Sports Illustrated next month is a huge sign of soccer's progress in the USA.

Michael Ballack
Ballack's header was enough for Germany
But Donovan's own career looks set to move with the kind of pace he showed to rattle the Germans early on.

Twice in the first half, Donovan got in behind the German defence and forced smart saves from the ever-efficient Kahn.

The Bayern Munich keeper also beat away a shot from Fulham midfielder Eddie Lewis as USA threatened to produce a shock that few had predicted possible.

Michael Ballack's close-range header - a German speciality at this World Cup - drew the sting from the US threat.

But Germany still had an outrageous escape when Gregg Berhalter's shot was handled on the line by Torsten Frings, out of sight of Scottish referee Hugh Dallas.

At that point, you couldn't help humming the 'Dallas' theme tune, but there was to be no corny twist to this American soap opera.

Those US fans who did tune in to watch their side back home will know the progress their game has made this summer.

The US mentality may demand another quarter- final appearance next time round, or perhaps even better.

But US sports fans who demand winning teams can at least finally claim to have found one on their soccer field.

You can only hope they realise it.


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