United States Stays Afloat in World Cup The U.S. soccer team fought its way to a 1-1 tie against Italy on Saturday in its second World Cup game. The game was critical for the United States, which took a devastating loss in its opening match last week. Even though the Americans didn't win against Italy, the draw is enough to keep the U.S. team in the tournament.
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United States Stays Afloat in World Cup

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United States Stays Afloat in World Cup

United States Stays Afloat in World Cup

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The U.S. soccer team in its second World Cup game fought tooth and nail to a 1-1 tie against Italy last night. The match was critical for the U.S., which suffered a devastating loss in its opening match last week against the Czech Republic. Even though the Americans didn't win against Italy, the draw is enough to keep the U.S. team in the tournament.

NPR's Rachel Martin reports from Berlin.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

RACHEL MARTIN reporting:

The game took place in the southwestern German town of Kaiserslautern, but in the capital city, Berlin, thousands of fans waving U.S. and Italian flags gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate to watch the game projected on a massive screen.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

MARTIN: After their 3-0 loss last week to the Czech Republic, the Americans were under heavy pressure to stave off a loss to the Italians and keep their World Cup chances alive. But despite the high stakes and the stiff competition, fans like Phil Swanson(ph) and his friends from Atlanta remained deliriously optimistic ahead of the game.

Mr. PHIL SWANSON (Fan): We're going to destroy Italy.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

MARTIN: From the opening whistle, this game was fast, emotional and rough, with several dramatic injuries and three red-card ejections. Italy got its first and only goal when Alberto Gilardino scored in the 22nd minute.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

MARTIN: But the Americans tied the score just a few minutes later when a U.S. free kick was accidentally knocked into the net by an Italian defender trying to clear the ball away from the goal. Despite the less than glorious circumstances, American fans joyfully welcomed their team's first goal in the tournament.

CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

MARTIN: The game took an aggressive turn, starting when Italian player Daniel de Rossi was ejected for elbowing the American, Brian McBride, leaving him with a bloodied face. Then American midfielder, Pablo Maestroni, was thrown out for an illegal side tackle. U.S. player Eddie Pope was the third ejection of the game, after a foul early in the second half. The red cards left the Italians short one player and the U.S. short two. Players on both sides looked haggard, as they tried to cover the wide open spaces left open after the ejections.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

MARTIN: The game ended with a score of 1-1, a tough finish for the top ranked Italians. But American fans here said overall it was a relative success for their team.

Mr. JACKSON SHERTA(ph) (Fan): My name's Jackson Sherta from Seattle, Washington. We dominated the game the whole time. We had more chances, more shots, more opportunities. We should have won the game, but a tie is good enough for now.

MARTIN: The Americans played a much more aggressive game against Italy than they did against the Czech Republic and it paid off, says Ken Nour(ph) from Ryan, New York.

Mr. KEN NOUR (Fan): I thought the American team was very quick and (unintelligible) consider that they did fare against the best - one of the best teams in the world and, you know, the American teams are stepping it up. I think they're very strong, very forceful and I think against Ghana they have a good chance.

MARTIN: The United States will take on Ghana on Thursday and a tie won't be good enough then. The U.S. will have to win that game by several goals in order to advance into the second round of the tournament.

Rachel Martin, NPR News, Berlin.

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