A heroic defensive display by nine-man USA held Italy to a 1-1 draw in Kaiserslauten in their Group E clash on Saturday. Italy went down to ten men first, but only have themselves to blame for not exploiting their numerical superiority for most of the second half.

A 27th minute Cristian Zaccardo own-goal had equalised an Alberto Gilardino opener five minutes previously.

Italy midfielder Daniele de Rossi was sent-off for a horrific elbow on Brian McBride (pictured) just after the United States' equaliser, while Pablo Mastroeni was dismissed for a late challenge on Andrea Pirlo just before half-time and Eddie Pope was given his marching orders for two yellows early in the second half.

USA defender Steve Cherundulo felt the match was a bad-tempered affair but one in which the US showed their true colours after an abject performance against the Czechs.

"There was a lot going on out there tonight with all those red cards. If we had a performance like this in our first match I think we could have got points there too," said the Hannover player, who felt his team's red cards "weren't deserved but we have to live with it."

The impressive right-back added:

"We had our backs to the wall. We knew if we didn't get a result we'd be out. We wanted to pull something off tonight and showed we could do it. We wanted to have the same kind of performance level against Ghana and get a few more scoring chances."

The USA actually had significantly more possession and chances until being reduced to nine men, but Italy really should have won it later on, denied by good goalkeeping from Kasey Keller and stout defending from Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundulo and Carlos Bocanegra.


The save of the match came from Keller, who made a fantastic diving stop to deny substitute Alessandro del Piero's flying volley.

The United States had a late goal disallowed, Brian McBride adjudged to have been interfering with play in an offside position after Gianluigi Buffon had let a DaMarcus Beasley shot slip through his fingers.

Italy had taken the lead against the run of play, Gilardino's diving header after a brilliant Pirlo free-kick coming on 22 minutes.

The USA equalised on 27 minutes after a Bobby Convey free-kick was sliced into his own net by Zaccardo, and Italy went a man down a minute later.


There are bound to be ramifications for De Rossi, whose assault on McBride appeared borne of frustration at conceding the goal and - along with his protestations after receiving the red card - had no justification.

Mastroeni's sending-off just before half-time should only draw the regulation ban, the Colorado Rapids midfielder mis-timed tackle on Pirlo's ankle worthy of a card.

Pope's dismissal was plain foolish however, an ill-advised foray into the back of Gilardino punished correctly with a second yellow.

Italy midfielder Gennaro Gattuso admitted that his team struggled in the match.

"We weren't brilliant," he told reporters.

"It just goes to show how you've got to keep your feet on the ground, even after winning your first match," concluded the tough-tackling Milan star.

The result leaves the United States with a fighting chance of qualification for the second round but needing a win against Ghana next week, while Italy only need a draw against the Czech Republic to ensure qualification.

Man of the match: Kasey Keller (USA) - not at fault for the goal and a match-saving stop from Del Piero amongst his many good moments.