MALDONADO, Uruguay -- Ending a stunning string of victories at the America Cup that captivated the soccer world, the United States succumbed to Brazil, the world champion, 1-0, last night in a hard-fought semifinal match.
Brazil, which outran and outplayed the Americans but never shook them off, will now face host Uruguay for the championship in Montevideo on Sunday. Uruguay beat Colombia, 2-0, Wednesday.
For its part, the United States showed much of the sparkle and drive that allowed it to advance to the semifinals of the 12-country tournament, but the Americans were simply no match for Brazil, which has won the America Cup on four occasions.
"We have showed the world we are growing and getting better," said Steve Sampson, the U.S. coach.
The U.S. team, which has never beaten or tied Brazil, was seeking to avenge a less tightly contested 1-0 loss to Brazil at the World Cup on the fourth of July last year. It was not be, although the U.S. team controlled much of the play in the second half.
"We came to play, to win and came to play offensive-minded and aggressive soccer, and I think you saw that," said Sampson. "How many times have you seen Brazil have to defend like they did in the last 20 minutes? I'm so proud of the way this team played."
Said Frank Klopas: "I think we played very well. We had a lot of chances. In the second half they played defensively because they were scared of our counterattack."
Although the odds were greatly against the United States winning last night, there was a glimmer of hope that the Americans could mount the same strong attack and teamwork that allowed them to defeat Chile, Argentina and Mexico in earlier rounds.
While both teams came off the bench on the attack, Brazil dominated the first half of play, by controlling the midfield and outrunning and outpassing the North Americans. At the 13th minute Aldair headed Brazil's first goal into the net off an excellently placed corner kick by Oswaldo Giroldo Jr. that the United States seemed helpless to intercept.
Both teams began the second half conservatively, but after the first 10 minutes, Brazil again broke into fast breaks and had several goal scoring opportunities that did not materialize because of several key saves by U.S. goalie Brad Friedel, who was started over Kasey Keller.
The Americans came close to tying the score with a header by Alexi Lalas shortly after halftime, and Eric Wynalda began to trouble the defense. But Wynalda had to be substituted after 77 minutes because of a groin pull.
"We played better here than we did in the World Cup," said Wynalda, who is likely to miss tomorrow's third-place game against Colombia.
The United States and Colombia played to a scoreless tie last month in Piscataway, N.J.