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U.S. beats South Africa, 1-0, in soccer exhibition

Juan Sebastian Agudelo, 17, scores in his debut for the national team off a pass from 20-year-old Mikkel Diskerud.

November 17, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones

Their names are Juan Sebastian Agudelo and Mikkel Diskerud, and it might be worthwhile to memorize them now.

By 2014, once the U.S. heads to the World Cup in Brazil — qualification being a given — they might be better known than Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley were eight years ago when they went to the Korea/Japan 2002 tournament as relatively wet-behind-the-ears 20-year-olds.

On Tuesday, the two made their debuts for the U.S. national soccer team and combined to make it a winning start.

An exchange of passes between Diskerud, 20, and Agudelo, 17, with only five minutes left to play, led to Agudelo scoring the winner as the Americans upset South Africa, 1-0, in an international friendly in Cape Town.

As far as debuts go, this one was near-perfect.

"I'm speechless, I don't know what to say," Agudelo said. "As I saw the ball go in, I didn't believe it. I thought it was going to get called back for offside or something. I really, truly didn't believe it. … It's an amazing feeling."

Agudelo's pistol-firing celebratory dance capped off the goal he grabbed by taking the pass from Diskerud and slamming a right-foot shot off the underside of the crossbar to stun the Green Point Stadium crowd of 52,000.

It was a deserved victory for Coach Bob Bradley's makeshift and experimental U.S. squad against the 2010 World Cup host nation.

The U.S. played a solid, organized and occasionally even adventurous match despite being without most of its first-choice players. Former Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who captained the team, led by example with a series of fine saves.

Also making their international debuts were USA defenders Tim Ream, 24, and Gale Agbossoumonde, 19, and forward Teal Bunbury, 20. All played well, as did some other recent additions to the team, notably right back Eric Lichaj and winger Alejandro Bedoya.

En route home on Thursday, the U.S. team will stop in Johannesburg to visit Nelson Mandela at the invitation of the 92-year-old former South African president. After that, the U.S. squad will take a break before opening camp in Carson in January ahead of its first game of 2011, against Chile at the Home Depot Center on Jan. 22.

Wednesday provided some other surprise results in international play.

World champion Spain, for example, was humiliated, 4-0, by Portugal in Lisbon, suffering its worst defeat in 47 years. "We couldn't have played any worse," said Coach Vicente del Bosque. "There are no excuses."

France, meanwhile, handed England its first home loss under Coach Fabio Capello by winning, 2-1, in front of 85,000 at Wembley Stadium, where the French were by far the more stylish and technically gifted team.

Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena scored for France, until Peter Crouch scored his 22nd goal for England after coming on as a late substitute.

Lionel Messi was the difference-maker in Doha, Qatar, where his exceptional injury time goal after a surging run through Brazil's defense earned Argentina a 1-0 victory in a game intended to promote Qatar's bid to stage the 2022 World Cup.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands, runner-up in the World Cup, shut out Turkey, 1-0, in Amsterdam, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar getting the lone goal, and Sweden held Germany to a 0-0 tie in Gothenburg.

Italy needed a late own goal to salvage a 1-1 tie against Romania in Klagenfurt, Austria. Romania's Ciprian Marica scored for both teams in a game that saw Italian forward Mario Balotelli targeted by racist chants from fans, who also unfurled a banner that read: 'No to a multi-ethnic national team."

grahame.jones@latimes.com

Jones reported from Los Angeles.

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