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   June 5, 2002 | 1630 IST



France get the blues

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US pull off shock win over Portugal

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Adrian Warner

The United States recorded their greatest soccer victory in over half a century when they upset fancied Portugal 3-2 in their World Cup opening group D clash on Wednesday.

The U.S., who lost all of their group matches at the last tournament in 1998, took a surprise 3-0 lead after just 36 minutes with goals from midfielders John O'Brien and Landon Donovan and forward Brian McBride.

The Portuguese, appearing at their first finals since 1986, pulled a goal back just before the interval from defender Beto Severo. After piling on the pressure in the second half, an own goal from U.S. defender Jeff Agoos put the Portuguese within striking range.

But they failed to stop the huge shock, which rivalled their 1-0 defeat of England in the 1950 tournament.

USA's John O'Brien (R) shoots and scores as Portugal's goalkeeper Vitor Baia (L) tangles with a teammate. The U.S. last won a game at the finals in 1994 on their home soil when they beat Colombia 2-1 in a group game and reached the second round before going out to Brazil. They have not scored three goals in one match at the tournament since 1930.

Portugal, semi-finalists at Euro 2000, were expected to make a serious challenge after scoring more goals than any other European nation in the qualifying competition.

But the United States, 300-1 outsiders to win the tournament compared to Portugal's 12-1, caught them cold with an early goal in the fourth minute.

O'Brien pounced at the post to score from close range at a corner after Portugal goalkeeper Vitor Baia failed to hold a glancing header from McBride as he dived to his left.

The Portuguese showed nerves in their approach play. After they gave the ball away deep in their own half, the United States went 2-0 up in the 29th minute.

A speculative cross from the right from midfielder Donovan took an unfortunate deflection off Jorge Costa, leaving Baia completely wrong-footed and unable to stop the ball sneaking past the post.

Brian McBride (bottom) heads past Portugal's goalkeeper Vitor Baia for the USA's third goal Portugal seemed to lose all their composure. The Americans went 3-0 ahead just seven minutes later when McBride scored with a superb diving head after a cross from the right from Tony Sanneh.

Luis Figo, their 2001 world player of the year, worked hard down the left flank after starting the match on the right.

The Portuguese had virtually all of the game in the second half and narrowed the gap to 3-2 when Agoos put the ball in his own net after a cross from Pauleta.

But the Americans managed to hang on desperately.

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