The first obstacle in the United States' path to World Cup glory is Ghana, Africa's premier soccer nation. Here's our preview and prediction the upcoming game.
When and Where to Watch
The match starts Monday, June 16, at 6:00 pm (ET), live on ESPN. The game is being played in Lagoa Nova, Natal, Brazil at Estadio das Dunas. Before the Americans get a shot at Portugal and Germany, they'll have to go through Ghana. If you can’t make it out to Brazil and you don’t have cable, every sports bar in America should have at least one of their televisions devoted to this game.
Why You Should Watch
It’s the World Cup! But seriously, Ghana has eliminated the Americans from the past two tournaments, so this is becoming a bit of a rivalry. Playing well in this game would do a great deal for the U.S. chances of breaking through the Group Stage. Ghana is, on paper, the worst team that we’ll have to face in the opening round of the 2014 World Cup. This means our offense will have its best chance at scoring goals and a level of intensity will be present that may be missing from the next two matches.
Essentially this is an elimination match. The loser of this game will not have enough talent or gas in the tank to earn enough points against both Germany and Portugal to sneak into 2nd place. If the two teams draw, barring any miracles in later matches, they will likely fall into 3rd and 4th place. This harsh reality means the squads will be coached aggressively so you won’t want to take your eyes off the screen for this one. Historically, it’s almost a death sentence if a team doesn’t emerge with at least 1-point from its first match. For the USA, every year that the team has lost its first match, they have failed to advance to the next round. When the team has gotten a win or a draw in its first match, it has always advanced. This is the game to watch, you don’t want to miss it.
Who to Watch for the United States
Michael Bradley does not always put the ball in the net for the Yanks, but he’s the centerpiece of the action for the majority of games. Josy Altidore returned to top form against Nigeria, and hopefully this physical specimen will carry his high level of play into the World Cup Finals. Clint Dempsey, as always, is the man to watch for goals: he is the leading goal scorer internationally for this team, but as he is getting toward the end of his prime. Our striking capability is world class. It will be interesting to see how things fare on the opposite side of the ball. Tim Howard is dominant, but if the defense can’t keep Asamoah Gyan or the Ayew brothers at bay during regular time, the Americans will likely give up some scores. Keep your eyes on Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, two younger defenders, to see if they can contain the Black Stars’ attack.
Why the U.S. Will Walk Away Victorious
Ghana is a strong squad. They made it to the quarterfinals during the 2010 World Cup and are coming off a 4-0 win against South Korea on June 9. In 2009, the Ghanaian Under-20 Team won the World Cup, so the country has high expectations for its “Golden Generation”. Ghana is favored against the U.S. and in general they are a more athletic team. On Goal.com, 63.9% of fans predict a Ghana victory. As the Black Stars’ Captain, Gyan will try to bring these predictions to fruition. Having said all that, the team finished just 2nd in the African Nations Cup after losing in penalties earlier this year. With this in mind, the Americans have their own ideas about what should happen in Estadio das Dunas and their firepower is not to be overlooked.
Currently, FIFA ranks the USA as 13th in the world with Ghana much farther behind at No. 37. Most of the time, you’d pick No. 13 to beat No. 37, especially at a neutral site. Still, critics doubt the U.S. because most of the American roster is untested in international competition (only 5 players have played in a World Cup before). The Yanks have reason to believe in themselves though, as Klinsmann has built a strong yet admittedly young roster of Americans and dual-nationals alike. After an impressive winning streak in the tune-up games, the USMNT looks ready to go. The overwhelming opinion is that the United States is the underdog. But our boys like a challenge and as midfielder Kyle Beckerman puts it, “…it’s going to take unbelievable effort from us and it’s going to take our best, but we’re looking forward to that”. Tune in on June 16 at 6:00 pm (ET) to see the best of both America and Ghana in each team’s opening game of the 2014 World Cup.
Clint Dempsey scores in the 23rd minute and Aron Johannsson scores at the 71-minute mark. Asamoah Gyan scores in the 64th minute and the USA holds on for the 2-1 win.