Feature: USA World Cup hopes rest on beating Ghana in opening Group G game
When I saw the U.S. World Cup draw, I thought it was great for football generally. Group G will be full of tension and Germany, Ghana, Portugal and the U.S. gives it a broad global appeal.
The best way to approach the group is to appreciate that progress is possible for the U.S., but not probable. We need to stay humble and let the boys fly under the radar—hoping they can get something out of it.
The silver lining, of course, is that games at the World Cup have a different dynamic in the group stages. It is always is about the first game—at least for countries like ours. The fact that the U.S. start against Ghana, with all due respect, gives Jurgen Klinsmann’s team the chance to get off to a winning start.
History tells us otherwise in our games against Ghana—the U.S. lost 2-1 to Ghana at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups—but despite the physical challenges, I believe spirit and tactical understanding of the game might be enough to see the U.S. to victory.
I wouldn’t be as hopeful playing Germany or Portugal in the first game.
But if the U.S. can beat Ghana, then there’s always the possibility of making it through to the knockout stages. The U.S. certainly have the mentality to achieve the impossible. There’s an undeniable spirit to Klinsmann’s group for this tournament.
What worries me is their lack of pace and a defence which may be found wanting. We should be worried that the U.S. defence has barely improved in the four years since the 2010 World Cup.
If you remember what happened in South Africa, the U.S. gave up early goals and lacked concentration.
Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are forming a promising combination at center-back, but they’ve never played together in a big tournament. Is Geoff Cameron a centre-back or a right-back? And at left-back, we have question marks with Fabian Johnson and Damarcus Beasley.
In midfield, Michael Bradley is undeniably a better player than he was in 2010, and Graham Zusi may give us an idea that he is the answer. But you could easily make the case that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are no stronger than they were in South Africa.
Donovan remains our biggest threat, while Dempsey is the team’s leader. Bradley is the best player.
We obviously know what’s happening with Jozy Altidore at Sunderland, and the only hope is that he’ll be reborn with the national team when everybody puts an arm around him and makes him feel like he’s the best. Otherwise, Klinsmann will have to look to Eddie Johnson, who can be extremely good one game and nonexistent the next.
There are still pieces of the puzzle to fit in, but Klinsmann’s group showed character in qualifying after a very difficult start. It’s a positive, but that was in CONCACAF. Now were looking at Germany, Portugal and Ghana.
A poor start in that first game against Ghana gives us no chance. On the other hand, any success we get out of this could be huge.