The United States will contest the Confederations Cup final after causing a huge upset in Bloemfontein last night by inflicting Spain's first defeat since 2006. Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey scored the goals as the US, having lost their opening two games in the tournament and only squeezed through Group B by the skin of their teeth, set up a final showdown against either Brazil or South Africa on Sunday.
The result was one of the biggest shocks in recent international history, with the Spanish having broken the record for consecutive wins with their 15th on the trot against South Africa at the weekend. The European champions would also have claimed the record for the longest unbeaten run if they had avoided defeat last night, having drawn level with Brazil's run of 35.
Even the 86th-minute dismissal of Michael Bradley – son of coach Bob – could not deny the US, who were left to celebrate a famous victory.
The US goalkeeper, Everton's Tim Howard, said: "We all know about the US beating England back in the World Cup in 1950 but this result, in the semi-finals of a major Fifa competition watched by millions around the world, has to rank right up there among the greatest upsets of all time."
The Spain coach, Vicente Del Bosque, said: "We are not used to losing any longer. Every defeat hurts. Today we needed the final touch. We had many opportunities but they really closed the door on us."
The Americans started brightly and the Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas found his goal under threat from Altidore and Charlie Davies early on. Cesc Fabregas then sent a dipping shot over the bar before he threaded over a superb cross that Fernando Torres was just unable to convert.
That was all in a breathless opening 12 minutes, and both sides continued to push forward before the US took the lead through Altidore in the 27th minute. Dempsey played the ball into his strike partner on the edge of the box and the 19-year-old was allowed to turn Villarreal team-mate Joan Capdevila far too easily before firing in a shot that Casillas got his hand to but could not keep out.
With their record in danger, Spain came out in the second half with all guns blazing. Just two minutes after the restart Howard produced a superb save to tip away Villa's effort.
But Spain could not find the breakthrough, and their hopes of reaching the final were crushed when the US scored again in the 74th minute. Donovan's low cross should have been cleared by Ramos at the far post, but Dempsey showed quick reactions to prod the ball away from the Real Madrid defender and past Casillas. Bradley was shown a red card for a heavy challenge on Alonso, but by then it was all over.
Spain: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Capdevila, Pique, Puyol, Xavi, Fabregas (Santi Cazorla, 68), Alonso, Riera (Mata, 78), Torres, Villa. Substitutes not used: Diego Lopez, Albiol, Arbeloa, Marchena, Pablo, Busquets, Silva, Llorente, Guiza, Reina.
US: Howard, DeMerit, Spector, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Clark, Dempsey (Bornstein, 88), Davies (Feilhaber, 69), Donovan, Bradley, Altidore (Casey, 84). Substitutes not used: Guzan, Pearce, Califf, Wynne, Beasley, Kljestan, Adu, Torres, Robles.
Referee: J Larrionda (Uruguay).