The USA and Brazil will contest the eighth FIFA Confederations Cup final after emerging triumphant from two heart-stopping last four encounters. As Spain and South Africa lick their wounds, and Castrol Insights look at the statistical stories behind the semi-finals.

The teams
Football is prone to reminding us of its glorious unpredictability, yet few upsets have measured as high on the game's Richter scale as USA beating Spain. Those much-discussed records - 15 straight wins and 35 games without defeat - had given the European champions an air of invincibility, and no-one expected the end to come against a team that had conceded three goals against both Italy and Brazil.

Yet the United States, who had become the first team to qualify for the semi-finals with just three points and a negative goal difference, made history by reaching their first-ever FIFA men's final. For La Roja, the defeat was a brutal lesson that, ultimately, there is only one statistic that matters: the scoreline. Vicente del Bosque's side had 56 per cent of possession, 17 corners, 19 shots and 11 efforts on target - more than in their 5-0 win over New Zealand - yet ended up tasting defeat for the first time since November 2006.

At times, Brazil must have feared they too would become victims of a giant-killing. However, Dunga's side have developed a resolute streak that once again saw them through a tough battle. Daniel Alves' superb late free-kick ensured that A Seleção remain unbeaten in 2009, having won eight and drawn one of their nine matches since the turn of the year.

The players
That USA made history in Manguang/Bloemfontein is beyond doubt. But how did they do it? The factors were many and varied, of course, but key to Bob Bradley's strategy was the neutralising of Spain's key players.

The top target was Xavi. Spotting the danger in allowing the Barcelona playmaker time to dictate play and pick out penetrating passes, Bradley instructed his players to make a "special point" of harrying the Spain No8 at every turn. It worked. Xavi, who entered the match having completed more passes than anyone else at the tournament, was reduced to a considerably more modest success rate of 77 per cent.

Joan Capdevila also suffered. The left-back had set up three goals in his previous two appearances, but USA were effective in reducing his overlapping opportunities, with the consequence that he delivered just one cross during the entire match. And even when the ball did arrive from wide areas, the Americans protected their box impeccably, with Capdevila's solitary cross meeting the same unsuccessful fate as all five of substitute Juan Manuel Mata's.

Tonight's match in Johannesburg was every bit as tense and tactical, but on this occasion it was settled by a moment of magic from Daniel Alves. In scoring the first direct free-kick of South Africa 2009, the Brazil wingback also ensured that history repeated itself. After all, it was from just such a set piece situation that Adriano fired the opening goal in Brazil's semi-final win over Germany four years ago.

The action
The dramatic semi-final mix included a milestone goal, with Jozy Altidore's opener against Spain the 300th in Confederations Cup history. The USA striker's strike came almost four years to the day after Adriano had taken the tournament's tally to 250 with that aforementioned free-kick at Germany 2005. Altidore was just two years old when the Americans found themselves on the receiving end of the first-ever goal in the 'Festival of Champions', which came when Fahad Al Bishi struck the opening blow in a 3-0 win for Saudi Arabia on 15 October 1992.

Did you know?
Even before Daniel Alves struck tonight, Brazil had developed a long-standing and successful habit of scoring from outside the box. Castrol Performance Analysts found that, in the last 11 FIFA World Cups, they scored 27.2 per cent of their goals from a distance of 18 yards-plus - nearly twice the average of 15.7 per cent.