15 June 2014

Ghana: Experienced Black Stars Face Well-Led U.S. in World Cup

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Asamoah Gyan celebrates his and Ghana's only goal in the match with Brazil.

Ghana were the best-performing African side in the last two World Cup tournaments but this time round have been handed a horror draw that includes facing Germany and Portugal in Group G. It makes their opener against the United States in Natal on Monday all the more important.

OVERVIEW

Ghana have effectively knocked the USA out of the last two World Cup tournaments, winning their final pool match in Nuremburg in 2006 to end the Americans' hopes of the second round and following that up with a second round victory in Rustenburg, South Africa, four years ago.

Both those matches were won 2-1 and it would be fair to say that a similar result in 2014 would likely end the USA's challenge as well, with Germany and Portugal to come in the pool.

But that is getting ahead of ourselves. This American team has some excellent form going into the finals and is well led by experienced German coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Ghana are probably the best balanced of the African sides in the tournament, with a very experienced squad of players who ply their trade in the top leagues of Europe.

It is hard to spot a weakness in the side, bar perhaps the fact they can over-rely on Asamoah Gyan to score their goals and if he has a rare off-day then they battle.

The midfield is their strength, with quality through and through, and the likes of Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Kwadwo Asamoah are top talents, though the latter has recently found a new home at left back.

They come into the finals off the back of a magnificent 4-0 hammering of South Korea in the U.S. last Tuesday, a result that should instill plenty of confidence in the side.

In coach Kwesi Appiah they have chosen to go local for this tournament, a departure from previous strategies, but he appears to have the backing of the players.

The USA are always a plucky opponent, not the most talented players around, but well drilled, tactically sound and organised in the way they go about their business.

Having left star man Landon Donovan at home for this tournament, a move which has drawn widespread criticism for Klinsmann, the pressure is on the coach to deliver, or he will get a raft of "I told you sos".

KEY PLAYERS

Asamoah Gyan (Ghana) - He seems to have carried the Ghana goalscoring hopes for an eternity and Gyan is as important to this Black Stars side now as he was in the 2006 World Cup. He scored the goal in extra time that knocked the USA out of the 2010 finals and he is the danger man again in 2014.

Tim Howard (USA) - Goalkeeper Howard brings plenty of English Premiership experience from spells with Manchester United and Everton.

He will be the last line of defence for a side that is likely to be under pressure against a fearsome array of attackers in the three games in the pool. He does have the ability to be a genuine match-winner in his own right with stupendous saves.

WHAT THEY SAY

Kwesi Appiah (Ghana coach) - "The United States are a very, very good team. It's not going to be easy. We have to make sure our players are playing their roles well. We hope to give them a very good game.

Playing them (the USA) as our first match will be very tough and I am sure my team are ready and know the task ahead."

Jurgen Klinsmann (USA coach) - "We basically start with a World Cup final against Ghana. We need badly these three points. If we get three points against Ghana, I think then that the confidence will rise, the guys will be pumped up, and they will be ready for Portugal and give them a real fight."

MATCH FACTS

Date: Monday, June 16

Kick-off: 22h00 (GMT)

Venue: Arena das Dunas, Natal

Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

GHANA HEAD-TO-HEAD VS USA

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