The first game of the Black Stars would be a do-or die affair against the United States of America. Here is a profile of the Ghana’s first opponents…
In Ghana’s short world cup history, there is no team the Black Stars are more familiar with than the USA. For the third straight world cup, the two sides are scheduled to meet and after two victories for Ghana, there can be no doubt the level of motivation the United States would have going into Monday’s game to avoid a 3rd straight defeat.
The United States Men National Team, or the USMNT as the abridged version goes; qualified for the 2014 FIFA world cup top of the North, Central America, and Carribean qualifying zone. One of the top sides in an otherwise depleted zone, the USMNT are often guaranteed a spot at the FIFA world cup. They breezed through qualification in CONCACAF, winning seven and drawing one of their last ten games.
In 2010, they went as far as the Round of 16 before losing 2-1 to the Black Stars in an epic confrontation at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenberg. On that occasion, Asamoah Gyan struck a sweet winner in extra time, and for the second consecutive world cup the USA had to stomach elimination at the hands of Ghana. Since that fateful occasion four years ago, so much has changed for the team.
The biggest change involves the man in charge of the team, Bob Bradley has since moved on and German legend Jurgen Klinsmann has taken over the reins. After an initial rocky start, a period which even included calls for the German’s dismissal; the former Bayern Munich striker has steadied the ship, leading the team to qualification and adding a certain steely resolve to their style.
This has seen the team record some impressive results; they won the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, whilst recording impressive friendly victories over Italy and former side Germany, all since Klismann took charge.
Whilst they cannot be considered a top contender at the world cup , and arguably the weakest side in the group; their form over the last two years as well as the influence of Klinsmann means Group G is going to be much closer than people reckon, and the biggest mistake the Black Stars would make is to underestimate the threat the United States pose.
Jozy Altidore is not the most aesthetic footballer, but his brute strength and powerful shot and header poses a significant threat to most defenders. Michael Bradley and Jermain Jones anchor a surprisingly steady midfield, whilst skipper Clint Dempsey remains evergreen at age 31.
The Seattle Sounders attacker is a jack-of-all-trades the like of which are rare in football. He is able to play anywhere across the forward line and in midfield as well. Ghanaians should remember him as he scored in the Group game in Germany 2006, as his particularly memorable celebration of dancing is more emblematic of a Ghanaian player than an American one.
Dempsey rose to the captaincy in the absence of the legendary Landon Donovan, and the armband has revitalized his value in the team. Aside all else, the former Tottenham Hotspur forward should be a particular point of interest to Kwesi Appiah and his technical team.
In Tim Howard as well, the USMNT has one of the better goalkeepers in the entire tournament. Paired with the discipline inculcated in the team by Jurgen Klinsmann and you have a team particularly hard to break down.
At 22:00 GMT on Monday June 16th, the Black Stars of Ghana take on the USMNT in both sides opening Group G world cup game. Whilst the games against Germany and Portugal would be infinitely more difficult, the danger posed by Jurgen Klinsman’s side is a real one; and nothing less than a near-perfect game might see the Stars emerge with a result Ghanaians would not like very much.