Ghana vs. USA: 2014 FIFA World Cup | Group G Match Preview
This is usually the match the United States play last – or, at least, it has been in each of the Yanks' last two World Cup appearances. This time, though, it's the group-stage opener for both the US and perennial nemesis Ghana. Don't mistake the early meeting date for breathing room in the event of defeat, though. Both teams need three points here to have a chance of edging out Germany or Portugal for a spot in the Round of 16.
JOZY'S BACK, BACK AGAIN: Jozy Altidore lit it up for club and country in the 2012-13 Eredivisie season and the early stages of Hexagonal qualifying for the United States. Then he moved to Sunderland and fell so far off the scoring pace that some wondered whether new AZ Alkmaar wunderkind Aron Johannsson would replace him up top in Brazil. Then he went out and scored twice – one an easy finish, one a vintage Altidore muscle goal – in the US' final tune-up match against Nigeria. Altidore insisted his confidence never wavered despite the combined 27-match goal drought, but the Nats have to love seeing him find the net again.
ON THE UPSWING? Ghana opened the year with a run to the Africa Cup of Nations championship match, despite going without a goal in either the semifinal or the final. That scoreless streak reached four matches with a 1-0 friendly defeat to Montenegro in March, and a 1-0 tune-up loss to the Netherlands in late May, but the Black Stars closed out pre-World Cup action with a 4-0 thrashing of South Korea last week in Miami behind Jordan Ayew's hat trick and a goal from Asamoah Gyan in his return to the XI.
MLS IN THE SPOTLIGHT: US coach Jurgen Klinsmann has made it a mantra: Players should compete at the highest possible level, against the best possible competition. So when Clint Dempsey, then Michael Bradley moved back from top Euro leagues to the circuit where their careers started, it raised eyebrows and questions about whether MLS was the best place for them to be in the months before this World Cup. The tests are about to be graded.
FAMILIAR NAMES: Gyan's name is well and bitterly known to US fans, after his goal in the third minute of extra time stood as the winner when the Black Stars eliminated the Americans in the round of 16 in South Africa. He's not the only scorer back from that match, though – so is Kevin-Prince Boateng, who gave Ghana an early 1-0 lead after a bad giveaway from Ricardo Clark. US fans won't see their returning scorer from that match, though; the United States' only goal came on a penalty kick from Donovan.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Michael Bradley, midfielder, USA: Dempsey wears the captain's armband, but this is Bradley's team to command and carry. His exact role for the World Cup has yet to become clear, linked as it is to Jermaine Jones' presence in the midfield as well. What is not in dispute is that experience in Europe's top leagues has made "The General" an intense, confident, skilled leader on the pitch.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Jordan Ayew, forward, Ghana: With his hat trick against South Korea as an injury substitute, Ayew is already halfway out of the bag. But the 22-year-old was never going to be a secret for very long anyway. He is a member of Ghana's first family of football, one of two sons of national footballing legend Abedi Pele to be included in this year's World Cup squad – and he should be a threat to score, whether he starts or comes in as a sub.