EVERY AMERICAN SOCCER FAN knows Ghana 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 become a U.S. rival - in a somewhat quirky manner - would be on the slate in 2014. If the past triumphs weren't enough to convince U.S. fans of the side's strength, Ghana is currently ranked as the second-best team in Africa and is ranked 24th overall in the FIFA rankings.

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.


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 partisans' nerves.—JON ARNOLD







They Said It ...


The Coach

JAMES KWESI APPIAH, a former Black Star himself, has led the team since the summer of 2012. He received 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.


The Tactics

GHANA TYPICALLY PLAYS a lone striker up top, which will likely be Asamoah Gyan, and puts two wingers wide to support him in the attack (usually Abdul Majeed 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 looks to hit on the counter attack early and often.

For a detailed analysis of the most prominent Ghanaian players, click on the player images on the left side of this page. <p>


The History

AFTER DEFEATING THE U.S. in the Round of 16 in 2010, the Ghanians faced Uruguay in a match best remembered because Luis Suarez was sent off for using his hands to stop Dominic Adiyiah's header. Then, Asamoah Gyan was unable to score from the spot. 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.

Ghana first appeared in the World Cup in 2006, when it made it to the Round of 16. It has twice finished in second place in the Africa Cup of Nations—in 2009 and 2014.


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." —Asamoah Gyan

"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 (former) Schalke teammate Jermaine Jones." —Kevin-Prince Boateng