Ryan Miller/Sports Blogger
The road to the World Cup final begins in Natal for Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States as they will take on a familiar adversary on June 16 at 6 p.m.
Ghana has sent the US packing in the previous two World Cups, and the Americans are hungry to avenge their prior defeats.
The stars and striped bowed out of the 2008 edition of the tournament with a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Black Stars in the final match of group play.
2010 brought more heartbreak for the US, as Asamoah Gyan buried an overtime goal to dispose of the US in the round of 16. Both of these teams are sure to have key returnees to their rosters, but this will be a radically different contest from the previous two.
The biggest battle in this match will come in the center of the park, as both midfields are abundant with talent. Ghana employs players from Europe’s best leagues, like Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A.
Kevin Prince-Boateng (brother Jerome plays for Germany who are also in Group G) plays his club soccer with Schalke 04, where he is deployed in a more defensive role.
The Black Stars will look to utilize him in a similar fashion, as he is an engine in the midfield area, covering a lot of ground with unrivaled stamina.
Three Serie A stars figure to line up in front of Prince-Boateng to lead the line for Ghana. Veterans Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien (both of AC Milan) will be the dominant creative force for Ghana.
Both have the vision necessary to pick defenses apart while still possessing the physical tools necessary to play Ghana’s physical, defensive minded brand of soccer.
The Americans are typically known for their counter-attacking style, and patience will be a virtue the Americans need if they are going to get their revenge on Ghana.
The Black Stars conceded just six goals in World Cup qualifying, and their first line of defence is their strong and capable midfield. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will be called upon to use their scintillating pace to cause chaos amongst the Ghanians.
Both players have a knack for creativity and will look for quick one-touch passing to avoid the swarming tacklers of Ghana. Jermain Jones and Michael Bradley will have a tough time trying to contain the Black Stars, and will have to rely on savvy defending and overall team-shape to contain the uber-athletic Ghana midfield.
Forward Asamoah Gyan will be a man on a mission this tournament, as he looks to overcome a personal demon, an injury time penalty kick miss against Uruguay in the quarterfinals of the 2010 tournament.
Gyan went from national hero (scored the game-winner against USA) to villain in the matter of days. Gyan, who currently plays his club soccer for Al-Ain (Saudi Arabia), was the leading scorer for Ghana in qualifying and plans to figure prominently in their offensive plans.
The Americans also have a forward with a point to prove in Jozy Altidore. Altidore has more than underperfomed at the club level for Sunderland and will be looking to change his fortune in Natal.
Altidore has had success scoring goals for the Americans in recent matches, and will look to build on his already developed chemistry with his countrymen. Our forward possess the technical ability all strikers need, and will need to hold up the play to allow the midfielders to join the attack. The US will be looking for Altidore early and often, and if he cannot provide the spark Jurgen Klinsmann is looking for, Eddie Johnson will available off the bench.
Besides the revenge story that most pundits are angling for this matchup, a subsequent one proves to be interesting as well. All other African teams have employed European managers, the Black Stars have a hometown boy in charge. James Kwesi Appiah played for Ghana from 1987-1992 and now takes his turn at the helm for his country.
Appiah is the first black coach to help an African team to World Cup qualification and will be seeking further success in Group G. The US will take on Ghana June 16 at 6 p.m. in Natal to kick off its group play.