Sunday, June 27, 2010

Preview of Round of 16. Match 2: USA v Ghana

This is American World Power versus the Hope of Africa. The Stars and Stripes against the Black Stars.

The USA, apart from a 3rd place finish in the first World Cup in 1930, reached their pinnacle of World Cup achievement in 2002 when they lost to Germany in the quarter-finals. And they were unlucky as well - Frings arguably handled in the penalty area preventing a goal but no penalty was awarded and the USA ultimately lost 1-0. They will be hoping to defeat Ghana to emulate the Class of 2002 and an opportunity to surpass them against Uruguay in the quarter-final. Ghana have only recently joined the ranks of the African countries to have appeared at a World Cup. First appearance was in 2006 when they made the second round only to lose 3-0 to Brazil. They will be hoping to achieve their best ever success and to emulate their African counterparts: Cameroon of 1990 and Senegal in 2002. And then to go one better against Uruguay in the quarter-finals.

The USA and Ghana have faced each other once at World Cup level. In 2002 they were drawn in the same group. Ghana beat the USA 2-1 in their final games of the group which enabled Ghana to progress to the second round and sent the USA packing.

Some key statistics: Ghana are the only team at World Cup 2010 to make the second round without scoring a goal from open play. Both goals came courtesy of Gyan penalty kicks. The USA have demonstrated fantastic battling qualities having come back from behind to draw in two games. After conceding early against England they equalised five minutes before half-time, albeit thanks to assistance from a Robert Green shocker. Against Slovenia they conceded two goals in the first half only to come back with two goals of their own in the second. Against Algeria they didn't need to fight back from being behind, but with the scores 0-0 in injury time at the end of the game they fashioned a winner. Clearly the USA have a lot of heart and clearly it is time for Ghana to score a goal from open play!

Key players: For Ghana Gyan is the likeliest goal scorer and Ayew should cause problems down the left flank. First choice centre-back Vorsah may not recover from injury in time. For USA Donovan and Dempsey are the keys with both players having the quality to create goals and a lot of heart to boot.

This should be a very physical match. Ghana have some very physically strong players and the USA won't back down. The USA are marginal favourites, particularly if they score first. It will be a fascinating contest.

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