The two lesser-fancied teams in Group G will square off on Monday evening at 6 p.m. ET, as the United States and Ghana look to fashion a foothold in the 2014 World Cup “Group of Death.”
With games to come against Portugal and Germany, getting off to a strong start is paramount, and you can bet the team that loses in this clash will feel a long way away from the knockout stages.
The United States will be looking to gain World Cup revenge on the Black Stars, who have knocked them out in the last two tournaments. But they’ll have to do so without their longstanding talisman Landon Donovan, who has been left out of the squad by manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
By comparison, Ghana will be hoping to replicate their sparkling run from four years ago that saw them progress into the quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup.
Here’s how both sides have fared in the buildup to the tournament, as well as all the information you need on where to catch the game via an online stream:
|Lost 1-0 vs. Montenegro||Won 2-0 vs. Azerbaijan|
|Lost 1-0 vs. Netherlands||Won 2-1 vs. Turkey|
|Won 4-0 vs. South Korea||Won 2-1 vs. Nigeria|
Here’s how the teams are expected to line up:
Ghana warmed up for this clash with an emphatic 4-0 win over South Korea, but prior to that they suffered defeats against the Netherlands and Montenegro. They do hold a pretty meagre world ranking going into this tournament, as noted by ESPN writer Gabriele Marcotti:
Ghana are 37th in latest FIFA ranking. Their group opponents are 2nd (Germany), 4th (Portugal) + 13th (USA).— Gabriele Marcotti (@Marcotti) June 6, 2014
The United States have been able to accrue some momentum in their warm-up fixtures, winning their games against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria.
Tactically, we look set for an intriguing battle between these two sides. Both Klinsmann and Ghanaian boss Kwesi Appiah will look to pack the middle of the pitch, a ploy that will give rise to a ferociously contested match.
In the buildup to the tournament, Klinsmann has utilised a diamond formation, pushing Michael Bradley further forward and trying to get the Toronto man on the ball in more dangerous areas. Behind him, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman and Alejandro Bedoya will look to provide energy and industry.
It is a bold system to play, given how close to the tournament Klinsmann has tried to implement it. So it's probably no surprise that Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe expects the United States to be tactically flexible:
Am I the only one thinking the #USMNT midfield diamond was a 45-min (ish) experiment and nothing more. I expect 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 vs. Ghana...— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) June 11, 2014
They’ll be going up against a Ghana midfield that is very experienced and powerful, though. The combative duo of Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari look likely to occupy the two holding midfield berths, and flanking them will be the exciting Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre.
Kevin Prince-Boateng will be the most advanced of the midfielders, and he has the potential to be the difference-maker in this vital clash. The United States don’t really have a player in the mould of Boateng who can float between the lines, play intricate passes and conjure moments of real quality. In a convoluted midfield, his ability to find space and influence the game will be crucial for the Black Stars.
Ghana have real pace in their XI too, most notably through the aforementioned Ayew brothers, who will make this team a major threat on the counterattack. Subsequently, expect Appiah’s men to be comfortable without the ball but springing from deep with real impetus and endeavour when they win it back.
That incisiveness will give Ghana the edge in this one. The United States have been in fine form in the buildup to this tournament, but they’ll be facing a better calibre of opponent against the Black Stars. The direct, raw abilities of Boateng and the Ayew brothers will be too much for the U.S. back line, especially when Ghana counterattack.
Who will go further in the 2014 World Cup?
They just look like a more capable, rounded outfit than the United States at the moment, who are still in transition under Klinsmann. Expect a tight game but a narrow Ghana victory.
For the remainder of the tournament, it's difficult to see either side making an impact in the final knockings. The two other teams that make up the Group G foursome are exceptionally talented, meaning that even if one of these sides can snaffle three points in the opener, it will still be a tough task getting out of the group.
Germany are the overwhelming favourites to top Group G, and given the quality within their ranks, they should win every game. That means that for Ghana and the United States, a win in this opening game is imperative, as is a positive result in their game against Portugal. Unfortunately, neither the Black Stars nor the United States look as though they have quite enough to make it to the knockout stages this time round.