World Cup Group G: Ghana v USA

By on June 16, 2014

Ghana and USA will face off against each other in their opening game of this year’s World Cup which will be the third successive meeting between the two sides in the finals of the World Cup.

The two teams have faced each other in the last two editions of the World Cup and it has not turned out well for the stars and stripes on either occassion. In 2006, the two came up against each other in the final game of the griup stages where both had to win to progress to the next round. Ghana came out 2-1 winners on that day effectively knocking the USA out of the tournament. Four years later in South Africa, the two faced each other in the round of 16 where the game went into extra time before Ghana won by 2-1, again knocking the USA out. This time around, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team will be hoping to do better and not repeat the results of the last two meetings. This is not a do or die game for either side, unlike the meetings in the previous two competitions, but the stakes are still very high.

They are accompanied in Group G with two European giants in Germany and Portugal and both are favorites to go through to the next round. Germany are tipped to finish top of the group whereas Portugal are the favorites to finish second. However, with the opening game of the group being played between the two giants, both Ghana and USA know that this is a must win game because if one of Portugal or Germany lose that game, then the winner of this game would have a great chance to qualify for the next round as the next two games will be against the giants. Both USA and Ghana are capable of getting something from the games against Germany and Portugal so a win in this one could be the kickstart they need.

Ghana have done quite well in their last two World Cup appearances. The event in South Africa in 2010 was especially impressive as they were only a penalty shootout away from becoming the first ever African team to make it to the World Cup semifinals. They were up against Uruguay in the quarter finals where Luis Suarez infamously blocked Ghana’s potential game inner in extra time with his hand. Ghana missed the resulting penalty and the game went into a penalty shootout where Uruguay were victorius. The memories of that game will be fresh in the minds of this Ghana squad as most of the players from that tournament are part of the squad for this year’s event as well and they will be motivated by the performance in 2010 to do well in 2014. Plus, coach Kwesi Appiah has kept the same playing style from 2010. There main strength is their solidity in defence where they draw the opponent out and then hit them on the counter. With players like Asamoah and Ayew who have a lot of pace in their legs, they can be deadly on the counter. Their main problem however is in the creative department where they mostly rely on Asamoah and K.P. Boateng. Both these players can take up the creative responsibilities to some extent but neither are very effective against tightly packed defences and that could be a problem for them, should Klinsmann go with a defensive approach for the game.

Appiah employs the 4-2-3-1 very effectively with two veterans Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien in the double pivot providing much needed cover for the defence. The AC Milan pair have been linking up quite well in Serie A this season and their chemistry could be key for the defensive solidarity of the team. As previously mentioned, their defence is their main strength and much of the game would depend on how effectively and quickly the two break down the USA’s attacks.

Ghana played two frinedlies going into the World Cup, losing 1-0 against the Netherlands and winning 4-0 against South Korea. Four of Ghana’s previous nine World Cup goals have come against USA. Ghana scored more goals than any other team in the 2014 African World Cup qualifiers (25).

The USA enter their opening game of the tournament with painful memories of the last two World Cups where they were knocked out on both occassions by Ghana. There were a couple of surprises from the USA camp before the World Cup as coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted to leave Landon Donovan out of his squad for the tournament. Donovan is USA’s top goal scorer at the World Cups with 5 goals. Plus he has scored 3 of their last 4 World Cup goals and therefore his omission from the squad raised a few eyebrows back in the States. However, Klinsmann is adamant that his side can do well without the 32 year old. The omission of Donovan also puts a lot of pressure on Clint Dempsey as he will be the only real creative player in that lineup with the likes of Michael Bradely mostly providing support only in deeper areas. The linup play between Clint Dempsey and Jose Altidore will be key for the USA if they are to get something from this game. Furthermore, Klinsmann will be well aware of how Ghana like to play and keep a tight defence for most parts of the game, and thus he will have to keep his own side organized and not to be drawn out of their positions easily.

Klinsamnn has used a 4-4-1-1 setup in the recent frinedlies and it seems likely that he will go with the same setup in this game as well.  Jose Altidore will be the lone striker up front with Clint Dempsey playing off him and taking up the creative responsibilities.

The USA played three friendlies before the World Cup, against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria, winning all three of them which will give them some momentum heading into the opening game. The USA have only kept two clean sheets in their last 23 games at the World Cup. USA boss Jürgen Klinsmann played 17 games and scored 11 goals at the World Cup with Germany. This is his second World Cup as head-coach having led his home nation to third place in 2006.

Ghana will start with Asamoah Gyan as the striker up front and K.P. Boateng will be in the supportive role as most of the creative responsibilities will be handed over to the two brothers, Andre and Jordan Ayew. Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien will be in the double pivit while Juventus wingback Kwadwo Asamoah will start as left back.

The USA will start Jose Altidore as the lone striker upfront with Clint Dempsey playing just behind him. Zusi and Davies will take up the wings and provide support but much of the creative responsibility will be on Dempsey’s shoulders. Veteran Tim Howard will start in goal.

DATE: June 16, 2014

TIME: 11 PM BST

VENUE: Arena das Dunas, Natal, Rio Grande do Norte

REFEREE: J. Eriksson

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
Ghana (4-2-3-1):- Dauda; Asamoah, Boye, Mensah, Afful; Muntari, Essien; Andre Ayew, Boateng, Jordan Ayew; Gyan
USA (4-4-1-1):- Howard; Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson; Davis, Bradley, Jones, Zusi; Dempsey; Altidore

RECENT FORM:
Ghana:- W L
USA:- W W W

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Ghana 1-0 USA

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