Estádio das Dunas, Natal
June 16, 2014; 23:00 GMT
Ghana are the team that have eliminated the United States from two FIFA World Cups in a row, and are looking to all but do the same a third time. Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA look to make more a of a splash than previously. Here’s a look at what to expect on Monday evening.
Team News and Tactical Brief
They may have required a playoff against a team managed by former United States manager Bob Bradley’s Egypt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but Ghana enter the tournament with a considerable amount of tournament pedigree, being within a Luis Suarez handball away from being semifinalists four years ago. This is arguably an improved Ghana squad; but they are faced with a much tougher challenge this time around in even qualifying for the knockout stages, let alone doing a repeat of 2010. The core of the squad from 4 years ago is back again, plus Michael Essien who had missed out due to injury.
Manager Kwesi Appiah’s likely starting lineup includes proven players from various leagues in Europe and in previous World Cups. Essien has been peripheral for Chelsea and Milan this past season, but will assume a crucial role in midfield along with club teammate Sulley Muntari. Kevin Prince Boateng has come off a decent season at Schalke 04 and will line up behind captain Asamoah Gyan. He could be flanked by two of Ghana’s first family of football, Jordan and Andre Ayew.
Juventus left back Kwadwo Asamoah’s performance will be crucial to Ghana’s hopes of taking 3 points home. Ghana are known for their ability to counter at pace, and Asamoah’s overlapping runs will test the Americans on the wing. Moreover, the fact that the United States are likely to send out a narrow formation will give him the space and time to make an impact going forward, without neglecting his defensive duties.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Adam Kwarasey (GK); Kwadwo Asamoah, Jonathan Mensah, John Boye, Harrison Afful; Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari; Kevin-Prince Boateng, Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew; Asamoah Gyan (C)
The agonizing defeat to Ghana from four years ago may be a forbidden subject in the American camp, but only 4 players remain in the United States squad from that harrowing day. Nevertheless, the USA will have much more on their mind than just avenging the events of Rustenburg. Having been handed the worst possible draw and worst travel itinerary, Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States will be eager to show that they are not going to Brazil just to be cannon fodder for Group G rivals Germany and Portugal.
Ghana’s ability on the counter is something Jurgen Klinsmann will be aware of, but he will have a core of relatively inexperienced players potentially lining up in Natal. In order to counter that threat, he is likely to lineup with three central midfielders in deeper positions – Beckerman stationed in front of the defence, Jermaine Jones covering for Beckerman’s lack of pace while also providing defensive support and Michael Bradley assuming defensive/attacking duties depending on which team is in position.
Klinsmann also has the option of sending out a more open formation, but Sporting Kansas City winger Graham Zusi will eventually run out at some point. The Americans will be held secure by Tim Howard at the back, but will depend on the in-form Clint Dempsey to create/score goals. Jozy Altidore has had an awful season at Sunderland, but two goals to break his goal scoring drought against reigning African champions Nigeria will surely give him enough confidence to shrug off poor club form at Natal.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-1-2): Tim Howard (GK); Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler; Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley; Alejandro Bedoya; Clint Dempsey (C), Jozy Altidore
Players to watch out for
Kevin Prince Boateng (Ghana)
The former Portsmouth and Milan attacking midfielder only recently made himself available for selection for his country, towards the end of Ghana’s qualifying campaign. He will be keen to make up for lost time in international football, having just come off a fine season at Schalke 04.
Clint Dempsey (United States)
Moving to Seattle Sounders didn’t quite work out in the 2013 MLS, but a sharp start to the league in 2014 has ensured that Dempsey goes into the tournament in the midst of a decent run of form. In the absence of Landon Donovan, he will need to summon all his experience to create and/or score the goals that the United States will need in order to win this must-win clash.
Ghana 2-1 United States
Blast from the Past