After witnessing its World Cup runs come to an end at the hands of Ghana in each of the past two tournaments, the U.S. men's national team got the better of its unlikely nemesis in Monday's Group G opener in Natal, Brazil. Thanks to John Brooks' go-ahead goal in the 86th minute, the Americans were able to claim a 2-1 victory and three points in pool play.
In addition to notching his first career goal with the national team on the world's biggest stage, Brooks also became the first substitute in USMNT history to score a World Cup goal, per ESPN Stats & Info. The United States made its first appearance in the World Cup in 1930 and has qualified a total of 10 times, including for each of the last seven tournaments.
Brooks' header into the net off a corner kick came just four minutes after Ghana's Andre Ayew notched the equalizer, elevating the 21-year-old German-American to instant stardom nationwide. It was just Brooks' fifth appearance with the USMNT, and his first cap in a World Cup match.
Brooks entered the game coming out of halftime and replaced Matt Besler, who exited with a hamstring injury. The defender told reporters after the game that two days prior to the victory, he had a dream he would score against Ghana on a game-winning header in the 80th minute. He was off by six minutes, but the dream proved shockingly prophetic nonetheless.
Monday's win puts the American squad in a solid position to advance to the round of 16, but the team will need to salvage a point from its upcoming games against Portugal and Germany in order to move forward.
Portugal and Germany are considered the class of the so-called "Group of Death," but Portugal hurt its cause by dropping a 4-0 decision to Germany in its opener while also losing a coupe of key pieces to injury. Still, led by reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese wlll be an enormous challenge for a U.S. team that struggled to hold possession against Ghana.