The United States is set to play Ghana Monday night to open its World Cup campaign and it should fit right in. As expected World Cup 2014 has featured open play, more than often is the case at a tournament with so much at stake, and there have plenty of goals and surprises.
A World Cup either influences or reflects the state of the game on the field. This is an era where attacking play is thriving. Defenders, specifically the outside backs, are integral parts of offenses. This World Cup has not been about tactics and cynical play, but has been marked by a determination to in the words of fans in the host country, joga bonito or play beautifully.
This is not to say the United States has an attack and approach that equals some of the game’s traditional powers, but its commitment and endeavor will match the trend that has developed over the first few days of Brazil 2014. Still the U.S knows all about “the group of death” business and is under pressure to secure the full three points against Ghana.
- Playing Ghana is not about dealing with history but its counter attack. The Americans understand they have never advanced past the group stage after not getting at least a point form their opening match. The fact that the opening match is against Ghana adds another element because the U.S. was knocked out of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups by the Black Stars. It doesn’t matter. This is about the here and now and it is understood that Ghana, though ranked 37th in the world, is a team in the words of United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann “can hurt you in a split second if you're not alert, if you're not awake.” Asamoah Gyan likely will play up top in Ghana’s set up with Kevin Prince Boateng and Michel Essien and Sulley Muntari attacking from the center of midfield. Gyan and Muntari led Ghana in scoring in qualifiers and Essien is the team’s creative force. On the flanks the United States will have to be concerned with Andre Ayew and Kwadwo Asamoah. Ayew is the son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele and at 24 years of age is looking to breakout at this World Cup. Asamoah plays on the left side, on defense of on the midfield, and will need to be kept in check.
- The United States approach. Last week’s friendly against Nigeria might have given us a hint as to how the U.S. will play starting Monday night. During his time in charge Klinsmann has experimented with several formations. Expect Michael Bradley to be the key figure linking everything together in midfield. Three midfielders in front of the back four would help deny Ghana space and that could mean a start for Crofton, Maryland Kyle Beckerman. Look for Bradley to then play higher up the field to be able to connect with Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
Prediction: The United States will rise to the challenge and win 2-1.