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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
The secret behind the American dream
Brad Friedel makes an important save against Mexico
Friedel (right) has been inspirational for the USA

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This continues to be a mind-boggling World Cup.

Few thought Argentina would be slain by the "Group of Death", fewer still predicted the early demise of holders France.

And now the unfancied USA have turned the tournament on its head by ousting Mexico to reach their first quarter-final since 1930.

Bruce Arena's team were among the biggest outsiders before the action began and with good reason.

Landon Donovan has scored twice in this World Cup
Donovan: America's bright hope

They flew to South Korea with a squad that included nine players who had tasted bitter disappointment at France 98, returning home in disgrace after losing all three matches.

There was little to suggest marked improvement this time around.

However, assisted by new talent from the unlikely breeding grounds of Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes, the US team are sending shock waves across the world.

Columbus' Brian McBride, who scored the first goal against Mexico, has had an excellent World Cup.

A big target up front, he makes life difficult for defenders and impressed then-Preston manager David Moyes during an eight-month loan to the Division One side in 2000.

Open Quote
On paper Germany v USA looks to be no match, but we don't play on paper
Close Quote
Bruce Arena
US coach

Although a deal fell through to sign him then, he looks a fair bet to be approached by European clubs again and his bruising, high-energy style may suit the Premiership.

Strike partner Landon Donovan, of San Jose, is the hottest young thing in Major League Soccer at the moment.

He has explosive pace and a cool eye for goal - as shown against Poland and Mexico - and, if football does catch fire in the USA, he and Chicago midfielder DaMarcus Beasley are likely to become pin-up heroes.

Despite the exciting flair of these two 20-year-olds, Arena would be the first to admit that his team lack the ball-playing imagination of some other nations.

More crucial to their progress, is fitness, organisation and an inspired goalkeeper called Brad Friedel.

Bruce Arena gives his US team a chance of beating Germany
Arena: 'Football's world order has gone'

Arguably the best keeper in the tournament, Blackburn Rovers star pulled off memorable saves against Portugal to seal a famous 3-2 win and then stood firm against South Korea to secure a crucial point.

He will need to be on top form to keep out Miroslav Klose and the Germans on Friday, but can at least call on some experienced defenders to protect his goal.

Two of those, Frankie Hejduk and Tony Sanneh, play their club football in Germany - for Bayer Leverkusen and Nuremberg - and will be particularly anxious to shine.

But even the super-fit Americans cannot sit back and soak up pressure for 90 minutes and that is what makes captain Claudio Reyna so important.

The Sunderland man has the ability to take hold of the US midfield and has the vision and distribution to spark the quick counter-attacks that may just unhinge Germany.

Coach Arena is writing off nothing as impossible for America's new heroes.

"There's no longer an established football world. On paper it looks to be no match, however we don't play this game on paper."


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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Nick Bryant
"Most Americans don't know the World Cup is on"
USA goalkeeper Brad Friedel
"We'll only be satisfied if we win it"
USA captain Claudio Reyna
"To be this far says a lot about the team"
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