SUWON, South Korea - Apparently, there isn't much to this World Cup business. Just throw a bunch of guys together - almost any 11 will do - take on a pedigreed European power and walk off the field with a victory.
That - implausibly, improbably, impressively - was exactly what the United States did here yesterday, gunning down Portugal with a three-goal barrage in the first half and then hanging on to win, 3-2, in front of a disbelieving crowd of 37,306.
The unexpected result drew immediate comparisons with two other American World Cup upsets: the 1-0 victory over England in Brazil in 1950 and the 2-1 victory over Colombia at California's Rose Bowl in 1994.
But this one might have been bigger than both, not only because of the quality of the opposition but because it was achieved with a makeshift team whose 11 starters had never played together.
On top of that, six of the U.S. players were making their World Cup debut.
"I think this victory will grab the attention of a lot of people in the United States," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.
Maybe. Maybe not. What will grab attention is a post-game comment of Portugal's coach, Antonio Oliveira.
"We tried everything possible to get a draw," he said. This from a man whose team was overwhelmingly favored to win Group D and included the likes of FIFA World Player of the Year Luis Figo of Real Madrid and lesser stars such as Rui Costa of AC Milan, Sergio Conceicao of Inter Milan and Fernando Couto of Lazio.
A draw was the last thing on the minds of the Portuguese when the national anthems were being played, but 36 minutes into the game they found themselves trailing by three goals.
That, too, deserved to be put in perspective. The last time an American team scored three goals in a World Cup match was when Bert Patenaude had a hat trick against Paraguay in 1930.
There were no hat tricks last night, but the match will go into the record books as the first in World Cup history to feature two own goals, although that's jumping ahead in the story.
Injuries to Claudio Reyna and Clint Mathis had forced Arena to juggle his lineup, and as long as he was doing so he went for broke. For example:
David Regis was tossed out as the left back and replaced by Frankie Hejduk, who had never played the position for the national team.
Pablo Mastroeni, a free spirit from Arizona who became a U.S. citizen only last year, was assigned the defensive midfield role, even though he had played only 10 national-team games.
Two 20-year-olds, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, had starting assignments.
On paper, it seemed as if the U.S. team might be headed for a drubbing. Instead, it will likely be headed to the second round if it can produce similarly inspired performances against South Korea and Poland.
It took the Americans only four minutes to take the lead.
A corner kick by Earnie Stewart on the left reached Brian McBride, whose sharp header was only parried by Portuguese goalkeeper Vitor Baia. The ball rebounded to John O'Brien, who lashed a left-footed shot into the back of the net, bringing a gasp from the crowd and a roar from the U.S. bench.
The U.S. team continued to attack and doubled its lead in unexpected fashion in the 29th minute when Donovan hit a cross from the right only to see the ball deflect off the back of defender Jorge Costa and elude Baia's desperate lunge as it flew into the net.
The third U.S. goal, seven minutes later, was a thing of beauty. Defender Tony Sanneh overlapped down the right wing and crossed the ball to the far post. McBride launched himself and headed it powerfully into the net, with Baia having no chance for a save.
Grahame L. Jones is a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Portugal 1 1 - 2
United States 3 0 - 3
First half-1, United States, O'Brien 1, 4th minute. 2, United States, own goal, 29th. 3, United States, McBride 1, 36th. 4, Portugal, Beto 1, 39th.
Second half-5, Portugal, own goal, 71st.
Shots at goal-Portugal 12, United States 10. Shots on goal-Portugal 3, United States 5. Yellow cards-Portugal, Beto, 34th; Petit, 52nd. United States, Beasley, 90th (injury time). Offsides-Portugal 2, United States 4. Fouls-Portugal 20, United States 20. Referee-Moreno, Ecuador. Linesmen-Fierro, Ecuador; Hassouneh, Jordan. A-37,306.