American soccer relished a historical win on Wednesday when superpower Italy were beaten 1-0 in a friendly, with Clint Dempsey scoring in the 55th minute.
The surprise victory at the Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris in Genoa ended a 10-game losing streak against the Azzurri, spanning 78 years. According to football writers, Wednesday's win will herald U.S.' entry into the elite league in world soccer.
“It is historic for us to beat a team of this caliber ... It was a great win, Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who took over from Bob Bradley last year, said.
Dempsey, who crafted the historic win with an artful shot from inside the penalty area that went past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, said the team is poised to make headway in international soccer in the coming years. “It’s a work in progress ... I like to think that we’re closing the gap and hopefully one day we can do something special,” he said, according to the Washington Post.
Football writer Martin Rogers, writing in Yahoo Sports, lauded Klinsmann's bold move of setting up friendlies against soccer super powers like France and Italy. He says the team is moving in the right direction under the German's leadership and that his brave approach has taken the U.S. out of its traditional comfort zone.
The U.S. squad is gaining in confidence and understanding and cohesion with every passing game, and it does not need to be fearful of high-profile opponents anymore because, on its day, it has the tools and tenacity to snatch results against anyone, Rogers wrote.
As of February 2012, the U.S. men's soccer team has a Fifa world ranking of 31 while Italy is ranked 8th. The U.S. hasn't had a glorious run in prestigious tournaments like the Fifa world cup. It returned to the world cup in 1990 after a gap of 40 years, but the farthest it progressed was a quarter final berth, in 2002.
However, U.S.' performance in the latest edition of the world cup in 2010 will be remembered for the superlative injury time goal scored by Landon Donovan against Algeria, which catapulted them into the second round.
In other first round matches, the U.S. had held England (1-1) and Slovenia (2-2). The 2010 essay ended with a heart-break defeat against Ghana (2-1), which had knocked the U.S. out of the 2006 world cup as well. For record's sake, it is interesting to note that the U.S. had held Italy 1-1, which went on to claim the title, in the first round match in 2006.
More recently, the painful loss against Mexico in the final of the regional CONCACAF Gold Cup resulted in changes at the helm, and made way for the hiring of Klinsmann as the coach.
“If you beat Italy on their own soil then that means a lot,” Klinsmann said. “Obviously as a coach you’re pleased because you see them progressing, you see young players stepping up and playing against these amazing, experienced Italian players who have won the World Cup and played big tournaments year in and year out. Obviously it was a big step for us.”