With the FIFA World Cup 2014 firmly underway, we bring you the next in an in-depth series of match previews that focus on tactics, team selections and predicted XIs.
USA meet their tournament nemesis in the opener on Monday, with Ghana the team responsible for the last two times Jurgen Klinsmann's men exited the world's biggest tournament.
How Ghana Will Shape Up
Ghana are tough to project, and manager James Kwesi Appiah has some tough selection dilemmas to mull over ahead of the first game.
Kwadwo Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah and Adam Kwarasey appear shoo-ins, but, beyond that, there are question marks galore.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Michael Essien are fighting a serious challenge from Afriyie Acquah and Mohammed Rabiu.
Jordan Ayew, Christian Atsu and Majeed Waris are all fighting for advanced positions too.
Whatever the XI, we know Ghana will sit back, defend against perceived "stronger" sides and counter-attack at pace. They lit up the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with their swift attacks, and they'll be no different in Brazil.
How USA Will Shape Up
The U.S. are tactically flexible, and they could field any one of several looks against Ghana on Monday.
They've largely played 4-4-2 over the last few years, with Clint Dempsey set to pair Jozy Altidore up front, though the former will play just off him.
A 4-2-3-1 is a possibility, as is a midfield diamond, but Klinsmann trusts Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones to run a two-man midfield while retaining optimal attacking numbers.
Defence is a concern—particularly against those counter-attacks—and it will be interesting to see who the German picks as his full-back tandem.
2 Tactical Clashes
The United States tried a midfield diamond (4-4-2) against Turkey in one of their final World Cup warm-up fixtures, but switched back to a more regular 4-4-2 formation in the second half.
In the standard look, Ghana would struggle to break the Americans' lines down, as they find it difficult when asked to control and work openings—instead preferring to sit back and use their athleticism on the counter-attack.
But leaving Jones on his lonesome at the base of a diamond is as close to suicidal as it gets for the U.S. here, and while Klinsmann's experiment with a new formation is interesting and positive, he should not wheel it out for the opener.
It's all well and good freeing up Bradley to do the damage, but he doesn't feel comfortable leaving Jones alone anyway, and he'd naturally drop off to help.
2. In Behind the Defence
Ghana play well in a low block, but when pushing up, their defensive line starts to look a bit...holey.
Boye and Mensah struggle with balls in behind, and the full-back combination of Asamoah and Daniel Opare or Harrison Afful is hardly supportive or protective.
They inherently sit deep and look to counter-attack, so when forced to push forward and create, gaps appear to take advantage of. Graham Zusi is excellent between the lines, Dempsey's a clever runner and Fabian Johnson can buccaneer forward at will.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!