The countdown to Brazil 2014 ended four days ago, but for fans of the U.S. Men’s National Team, the true wait is almost over. At 6:00 p.m. Eastern, the Stars and Stripes open their seventh straight World Cup with a chance at revenge, facing a Ghana team that’s knocked them out of the last two finals.
You can read more on the U.S.’s side of things here. For now, here’s a quick look at the team’s much-anticipated opener, due to kick off shortly in Natal, Brazil.
Ghana: Kwarasey, Opare, Asamoah, Mensah, Boye, Rabiu, Atsu, Muntari, J. Ayew, Gyan, A. Ayew
United States: Howard, Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley, Beckerman, Jones, Bradley, Bedoya, Dempsey, Altidore
1. 2006, 2010 – The United States has been seen out of the last two tournaments by Ghana, a fact that’s motivated both sides. While Jurgen Klinsmann’s men don’t want to become the latest Black Stars’ victims, the Ghanaians carry the expectations of their past’s success. In 2006, Ghana’s group stage win ensured the U.S. wouldn’t reach a second straight final 16, while in 2010, extra time helped the Black Stars discard the U.S. en route to their first quarterfinal.
2. Portugal’s plight – Neither Ghana nor the U.S. were favored to get out of Group G this morning, but after Portugal’s embarrassment earlier today, the door is open. The Seleccao are four goals to the bad and will be without defenders Pepe (red card) and possibly Fabio Coentrão (injury) when they face the U.S. on Sunday. Whomever wins this game will be the new favorite to finish behind Germany and make the knockout round.
3. The U.S.’s midfield – Between Gyan, the Ayews, and Atsu, Ghana has an enviable wealth of attacking talent, a battery that will be more impressive if Kevin Prince-Boateng’s brought on. The U.S., however, are capable of controlling the game, with Michael Bradley leading what often becomes a midfield five that can congestthe middle of the park. Ghana has to find way through that mire, while the U.S. needs to cut off access to their opponents’ most dangerous stars.
Expectation: Worldwide, Ghana seems to be slight favorites, but this should o be one of the tighter matches of the tournament’s opening week.
One blogger’s prediction: The U.S. exploits the Ghanaian defense to exorcise its demons, giving up a trademark late goal in a 2-1 win.