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Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan

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JOHANNESBURG -- For 45 minutes, it was no contest.

American goalkeeper Tim Howard was outplaying Brazil's Julio Cesar, considered by many among the world's best goalies.

Then the second half started, and the United States' 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 loss to Brazil in Sunday's Confederations Cup final.

Howard was brilliant in the first half, but Brazil's powerful offense staged a relentless assault on the goalie the entire second half, capping the comeback with Lucio's game-winning score in the 84th minute.

"You look around at their players and you realize why they're worth so much and why they play at the teams that they play," a somber Landon Donovan said.

"It's disappointing when we gave such a good effort today." And few gave a better effort than Howard.

He was not responsible for any of Brazil's goals, and he made five saves to Julio Cesar's zero in the first half.

Howard stretched out his 6-foot-3 frame to push a shot wide from Brazil's speediest striker, Robinho, in the 13th minute.

In the 35th, the New Jersey native saved a dangerous effort from Andre Santos, then deflected another shot from Robinho in the 41st.

But the five-time World Cup champions' class was evident as soon as the second half began.

Not even a minute in, Luis Fabiano beat Howard.

Howard managed to keep the Americans ahead, intercepting a dangerous cross from Maicon and stopping a header from sturdy defender Lucio in the 58th.

He also put up his hands to block a header from Kaka in the 60th, sending the ball rattling off the crossbar, though Brazil clearly thought the ball had gone in.

Howard smothered one more shot from Fabiano in the 71st, but the striker notched his second goal three minutes later to even the score at 2-2.

Dempsey lost sight of Lucio in the 84th and the defender headed home the winner in the 84th.

As Brazil jumped for joy at the final whistle, Howard stood with his hands on his knees and watched with envy.
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