World Cup 2014
Group G Preview: Taking a Close Look at Ghana
For the third consecutive World Cup, the United States men's soccer team will face a Ghana team that seems to have its number. Can the Yanks defeat their African enemies? Jon Arnold takes a close look.
Editor's Note: American Soccer Now will be all over Group G and the entire World Cup experience from this day forward. We now have early looks at Germany and Portugal ready for you.
December 09, 2013
SHARE THIS STORY
Every American soccer fan knows Ghana (6pm Eastern, June 16; ESPN) as the team that
eliminated the U.S. from the last two World Cups—a 2-1 win in
extra time during a round of 16 match in 2010, and a group stage win by the
same margin in 2006 that kept the Stars and Stripes from reaching the knockout
round. (Ghana also defeated the U.S. under-20 team, 4-1, at the 2013 U-20 World Cup.)
The Black Stars are renowned for their talent and speed, and as soon as they were drawn into Group G with the Germans, it seemed a
foregone conclusion that the West African nation that has quirkily
become a U.S. rival would be on the slate in 2014. If the past
triumphs weren't enough to convince U.S. fans, Ghana is currently
ranked as the second-best team in Africa and is ranked 24th overall in the
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Ghana breezed through the first stage of Confederation of African Football
qualification, scoring the most goals of any team and
missing out on points just once (a 1-0 loss to Zambia) in the group
portion. Then, the Black Stars dispatched former U.S. coach Bob Bradley's Egypt team
in the two-legged playoff. A 6-1 win in the home leg basically sealed
qualification, and the team avoided collapse by losing 2-1 in Cairo
for a 7-3 aggregate victory.
James Kwesi Appiah, a former Black Star himself, has led
the team since the summer of 2012 after a surprise promotion after Goran Stevanovic was fired for failing
to win that year's African Cup of Nations. Stevanovic was the third
foreign coach Appiah worked under and the former left back has become
an outspoken supporter of African coaches leading African teams. A
fourth-place finish in this year's African Cup of Nations
didn't see Appiah fired, likely because of the focus on World Cup
qualification results. Aside from this job, Appiah hasn't led any
major teams, though he did spend time learning from coaches throughout
Europe, including those at Manchester City.
Asamoah Gyan, the man who scored the goal to eliminate
the U.S. in 2010, likely needs little introduction, though perhaps some
people will need a refresher. He moved from Sunderland to Al Ain in
2011 and still represents the UAE-based team at the club level. That
makes him no less potent of a scoring threat for Ghana, scoring 39
goals in 77 career appearances for the Black Stars. He also seems more
focused than ever, earning the captain's armband in recent matches.
The Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan, are also potent up front, with
the elder, Andre, likely to make a move to one of the world's giant
clubs if Marseille can't shell out the cash. He's probably more likely
to play wide for the Black Stars with another capable forward, Majeed
Waris, on the other side.
In the midfield, there's a similar glut of talented, young players
with Kevin-Prince Boateng, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Kwadwo Asamoah
on the rise and likely to learn from the experience of Michael Essien and Sulley
With all that attacking firepower, Ghana's defense seems like it could
be exploited by the U.S. and the other Group G teams, but the reality
is the unit has grown strong and is often the key to springing the
In goal, there are no international Ghanian superstars, but Fatau Dauda, who joined the Orlando Pirates this year, has experience with the national team and is serviceable between the posts. However, the transfer to the South African side hasn't gone as planned with Dauda finding it difficult to get off the bench to earn first-team reps. This has caused some Ghanians to call his ability to be the team's backstop in Brazil into question.
Ghana typically plays a lone striker up top, which will
likely be Gyan, and puts two wingers wide to support him in the attack
(usually Waris and Andre Ayew). Whether in the 4-1-4-1 it played
against Egypt or the 4-2-3-1 it also utilized in 2013, the team relies on
the central midfielders to protect the back line and look to hit on
the counter attack early and often.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
After beating the U.S. in the Round of 16 in 2010,
the Ghanians faced Uruguay in a match best remembered by Luis Suarez
being sent off for using his hands to stop Dominic Adiyiah's header. If the extra-time shot had gone in, Ghana likely would have advanced.
Instead, the match went to penalties, and
Uruguay won the penalty shootout, 4-2, to advance.
In 2006, Ghana advanced from Group E and was greeted with a match
against Brazil, which it lost 3-0.
The Black Stars have qualified for the last three World Cups but had
never qualified before 2006.
THEY SAID IT
"It's nice to meet Germany, and also USA, who we beat in
Round of 16 in 2010. We are a better team than in 2010 and I'm sure
there will be a lot of surprises in this group. Once you are prepared
to go to the World Cup, you must be prepared to face any team that
comes your way. If you want to win the World Cup, you need to beat all
the teams in your group." –Kwesi Appiah
"It happens to us always, the most difficult group, the Group of
Death, but we have a good selection to rival any team. We don’t fear
Germany, Portugal, or even the United States. Ghanaians can be rest
assured we will qualify and make the country proud again. There is
great teamwork and coordination among us, so we will work hard."
"You can see that wishes do come true. It's the draw of my dreams. I
can't wait to face my brother (Jerome, who represents Germany) at the
World Cup. It will also be great to face my Schalke teammate Jermaine
Jones." —Kevin-Prince Boateng
The United States faces Ghana first, and must get a result
against the Ghanaians. There could be trouble on the flanks for the
Americans, with some tough matchups posed by the wingers and fullbacks,
but the U.S. is used to playing counter-attacking teams.
The pressure will be heavy on both squads, especially as both will be
desperate for all three points knowing matches with Portugal and
Germany, in addition to long stretches of travel, await. Barring
injury to one of the team's major stars, there's nothing that tips the
scale massively in either team's favor, and you could see either
advancing out of the group or crashing out with a disappointing exit.
It really could go either way, and it will be fun to discuss the
possible scenarios of each in the six months to come. With that in
mind, the match will be critical for both teams and should provide
neutrals with plenty of excitement. It will be easy on the
neutral fans' eyes, and it will no doubt be rough on partisan's nerves.
What do you think of the United States' chances against Ghana? Tell us below, and keep an eye out for similar portraits of Portugal and Germany over the next 24 hours.