I believe… I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN! This is it: the day that all U.S. Men’s Soccer Team fans have been waiting for. Today we begin our journey at the 2014 Men’s FIFA World Cup – against our “rival” Ghana.
South Africa 2010 was Ghana’s best ever finish at a World Cup (Quarterfinals), after a Luis Suarez handball saved Uruguay, and denied Ghana a chance at playing in the semifinals. In the Round of 16 at South Africa 2010, Ghana sent the USA home after a 2-1 win in extra time. Ghana were also the Grim Reaper of USA’s 2006 World Cup campaign, handing them another crushing 2-1 defeat in the final game of the group stages. At Brazil 2014, Ghana will be looking to continue the trend. A win against Ghana will not guarantee advancing past the group stages, but Grant Wahl tweeted/reported that the U.S. have never advanced past the group stage after losing their first game (1934, 1950, 1990, 1998, and 2006), and has survived the group every year in which they got at least one point (1930, 1994, 2002, and 2010).
Is today’s game a must-win? No, but the U.S. certainly need to find a way to get at least a point – especially considering how difficult the group is this year.
Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars).
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege), Harrison Afful (Esperance), John Boye (Rennes), Jonathan Mensah (Evian), Rashid Sumalia (Mamelodi Sundowns).
Midfielders: Michael Essien (AC Milan), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese), Afriyie Acquah (Parma), Christian Atsu (Vitesse), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Andre Ayew (Marseille), Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan).
Forwards: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke 04), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux).
Manager: Akwasi Appiah
In their final pre-World Cup friendly, a 4-0 win against South Korea, they ran with a 4-3-3 with Gyan at striker, Waris and Ayew on the wings, Boateng, Muntari, and Rabiu in the midfield, Afful, Boye, Mensah, and Asamoah rounding out the back four, and Dauda in goal. This team is built on speed, and that is what the 4-3-3 allows: time and space for Ghana’s quick players to make runs through the USA defense. If Ghana coach Akwasi Appiah wants to clog up the midfield and be more defensively-sound, or perhaps protect a lead, he could go with a 4-2-3-1, adding Michael Essien in to the lineup as a defensive midfielder with World Cup experience.
- Speed on the attack
- Very effective counter attack
- Crack under pressure
- Vulnerable defense
How The U.S. Can Exploit The Weaknesses & Contain The Strengths Of Ghana
The best way for the U.S. to deal with Ghana’s strengths is to roll out the 4-2-3-1. As much as I am a fan of the 4-4-2 diamond, the 4-2-3-1 allow us the U.S. to be dynamic in the way they defend and attack. If Jozy Altidore’s brace against Nigeria is all that was needed to get him back in to form, I think that they can survive with just a lone striker. The U.S. seem to get more production out of their wings when playing a 4-2-3-1, plus it allows them to clog up the midfield and hope to stifle some of Ghana’s counter attacks. Also, having two defensive midfielders (Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones/Kyle Beckerman) gives them extra support on defense, letting Jones/Beckerman play more of a defensive role while Michael Bradley plays his typical role of being all over the field. The simple matter of fact is that the U.S. cannot keep up with Ghana’s speed. The best they can do is contain it, and I feel that playing a 4-2-3-1 does just that for the U.S..
As far as weaknesses are concerned, the U.S. should jump on the hipster trend at the 2014 World Cup thus far, and that is by scoring early. During World Cup Qualifiers, Ghana failed to record a point in matches where they trailed. So it’s simple: score early, and force Ghana to play your game. Ghana’s most vulnerable part of their defense is on the wings, so perhaps Klinsmann will deploy a 4-2-3-1 and allow Graham Zusi and Brad Davis/Alejandro Bedoya to swing in crosses to Altidore and Aron Johannsson all game long hoping that at least one will find the back of the net.
With a group this difficult, both teams are going to be desperate to secure three points in the opening game. Quick goals have been somewhat of a trend thus far at the 2014 World Cup. If the U.S. can get a goal within the first 20 minutes, I would expect Klinsmann to play a more possession-based game to try and deal with Ghana’s speed for the remaining 70 minutes. The U.S. cannot keep up with Ghana’s speed, and Klinsmann knows how important it is to get some type of result (win or draw) from the first game. I predict a 1-1 draw, with Dempsey and Ayew getting the goals.
*Roster provided by http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27388351
*Pre-World Cup friendly information provided by http://www.soccer24.com/world/friendly-international/teams/