JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Clint Dempsey sobbed as the Americans walked up to get their second-place medals, unable to hide the pain and the disappointment any longer.
The euphoria of knocking off world No. 1 Spain last week dissolved Sunday in the Confederations Cup final when Brazil unleashed its "Beautiful Game."
After dominating the five-time World Cup champion in the first half, the Americans were powerless as Brazil scored three goals in the final 45 minutes to rally for a 3-2 win.
"We're at the point where we don't want respect, we want to win," said Landon Donovan, whose goal in the 27th minute gave the United States a 2-0 lead. "There's no guarantee we ever get back to a final game like this, so it's disappointing."
Luis Fabiano scored twice and Lucio added a third in the 84th minute to give Brazil its second straight Confederations Cup title and third overall.
The Americans, ranked 14th in the world, fell short in their first final of a FIFA tournament, but the experience was invaluable.
"We continue to try and move ourselves forward, and playing these kind of games only helps," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "But it still feels pretty lousy to let this one get away."
The United States has beaten Brazil once in 15 games, and it was just 10 days ago that the fifth-ranked Brazilians hung a 3-0 rout on the Americans in group play.
In the first 45 minutes Sunday, it was Brazil that looked like the beaten team. Its usually fluid offense created few opportunities and was constantly stymied by the U.S. defense and goalkeeper Tim Howard. Meanwhile, the Americans were relentless in their attack on a nervous-looking Brazil defense.
Just 10 minutes in, Jonathan Spector sprinted down the right side and sent a low cross into the area. Dempsey raised his right leg and put just enough of a touch on the ball to alter the direction and send it past a diving Julio Cesar.
Donovan then got possession at his own end shortly after Maicon had sent in a corner for Brazil from the right. The U.S. midfielder ran up the middle, passed to Charlie Davies then reclaimed the ball from his teammate before beating Julio Cesar.
But Brazil has won many titles for a reason, and it wasn't about to let another slip away.
Luis Fabiano started the comeback in the 46th minute. The striker collected a pass from Ramires before turning and shooting past defender Jay DeMerit for his fourth goal of the tournament.
"We gave up the first goal so early in second half," Bradley said. "We really put ourselves in a tough spot."
Luis Fabiano added his tournament-leading fifth goal to equalize in the 74th minute.
In the 84th minute, Lucio delivered the decisive goal when he headed a corner kick from Elano past Howard.
"I felt like I was on a lot of the game," Howard said. "They created a lot of chances, and eventually the dam broke. I can't get my big behind in the way of everything, unfortunately."
Brazil has now won eight straight and is unbeaten in 16.
As the Brazilians gathered in a circle and jumped up and down in celebration, the Americans remained on the field, watching in stony silence. Many climbed to get their medals with heads bowed, and few of them smiled.
But Bradley remained positive.
"We were able to make it a real game with a top team," he said. "Over time, to be able to sustain that longer, not have ups and downs throughout the game, that's a sign of progress."
Spain takes third: Xabi Alonso scored on a free kick in extra time to give Spain a 3-2 win over South Africa and third place. He curled his shot inside the far post, allowing the European champions to rally from their semifinal loss to the United States.