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Posted: Friday June 25, 2010 9:47AM ; Updated: Saturday June 26, 2010 1:24PM
Georgina Turner
Georgina Turner>INSIDE THE WORLD CUP

USA vs. Ghana World Cup instant analysis

  • 1

    USA

  • 2

    Ghana

  • '

    "Since all of my predictions to date have been wrong...not just marginally wrong mind you, I am talking monumentally incorrect," explains Joel sweltering in Omaha at the College World Series, "I am going to ride that wave of wrongness and pick Ghana to win 2-1 in an exact repeat of '06. So if my logic is correct, and it always is...ahem...then the US may win this game!"


  • '

    Pregame

    Earlier, Uruguay beat South Korea, and is now waiting for the winner of this match for a Friday afternoon meeting in the quarterfinal. The U.S. hasn’t lost to Uruguay since 1993, but then it hasn’t actually played Uruguay since a 2002 friendly -- only DaMarcus Beasley (who scored the winner that day) and Landon Donovan (a second-half sub) survive from that team. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? There’s the small matter of Ghana yet!

    Bob Bradley has done a spot of tinkering in what looks like an attempt to inject a bit more pace and catch Ghana on the hop -- Robbie Findley is back up front and Ricardo Clark is in the middle with Michael Bradley. I feel a bit sorry for the dropped Maurice Edu, to be honest, since he’s the only one to have looked comfortable in there.

    The running in that side could be crucial, though, because Milovan Rajevac has gone with a back five. If full-backs Samuel Inkoom and Hans Sarpei are encouraged up the wings, there’ll be space for the U.S. to try and get in behind Ghana on the break.

    Most importantly, we need a bit of good, old-fashioned “USA! USA!”, so thanks to Jeffrey Tartarkin for laying on a bit of Hulkmania.

    Teams:

    USA: Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Landon Donovan, Ricardo Clark, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Robbie Findley, Jozy Altidore.

    Ghana: Richard Kingson, John Pantsil, John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah, Hans Sarpei, Anthony Annan, Kevin Prince Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah, Andre Ayew, Asamoah Gyan.


  • '

    From the stadium: Everyone is very excited that Bill Clinton and Kobe Bryant are in the crowd, though the moment is ruined by leathery old Brit Mick Jagger pitching up.

     

    The teams are coming out! Make sure you've been to the toilet and charged your glasses.

    Anthems: USA gets to go first, and draws good crowd participation -- including Bill, who's giving it a good old go. The crowd seems quieter for Ghana, but that could be because I've got my specially patented "TEAM USA-tastic specs" on.


  • 1'

    Kickoff: Ghana get us underway in their red and yellow kits. USA in all white tonight.

    "I'm simply not ready, no," says Tammy. "Not nearly drunk enough."


  • 2'

    Donovan wins his first encounter with Sarpei and puts in a reasonable cross from the right, but it's too far ahead of Altidore and Findley.


  • 4'

    Gyan collects the ball and lays it back to Inkoom, who strides forwards into acres of space - fortunately he decides to mark his debut with a weak shot from a long way out. Dempsey has given Kingson the Rob-Green-or-better? test and the Ghana keeper came out ok.


  • 5'

    Ghana 1-0

    Goal - BOATENG

    Kevin Prince Boateng has just put Ghana a goal up!

    I was just about to start tapping away about how much space Ghana were finding in front of the US defense -- only DeMerit and Boca stood in Boateng's way and neither really closed him down.


  • 7'

    Yellow Card - Ricardo Clark

    Clark gets booked for a full-speed sliding tackle. "Breakfast beer and whiskey lunch," slurs Richard de Lorenzo. "What is not to like about soccer?!" Pour yourself another, Richard, is my advice.


  • 9'

    The U.S. could do with a few solid minutes on the ball to settle the nerves but Ghana are giving them no time at all. What is it about the early stages of a game that troubles the U.S. so much?


  • 11'

    Cherundolo, who's been extremely good in the tournament so far (have I said that already? Probably, but he has), is lucky that the referee is under the impression that any contact constitutes a foul, because Ayew had the beating of him there. The wings are proving a fruitful stomping ground for the Ghanaians, particularly down the left side.


  • 14'

    60 percent possession for Ghana so far, and the U.S. is resorting to long-ball stuff when it does break down an attack. I think these USA-tastic specs must be faulty.


  • 16'

    There's tumbleweed blowing through my inbox ... is anybody still there, or are you all digging out NFL videos for comfort?


  • 18'

    Yellow Card - Steve Cherundolo

     "There is no excuse for Ricardo Clark being in the lineup," hisses Phil Fraser, through gritted teeth. It's not only Clark who's having a tough time. Cherundolo has just made a crazy hack at Ayew, who was streaking away from him on the left, and been booked. He'll miss the quarterfinal if the USA get through.


  • 20'

    A brief moment across the halfway line as Donovan and Altidore look to spring a break, but three Ghana defenders move in and kill it dead. Bob Bradley could do with halftime already.


  • 23'

    Great running from Bradley, who stole into the box unseen by the Ghanaian defense, but the cross is collected by Kingson. Bradley Snr is looking a bit bemused on the bench, like someone whose computer has just shown him the blue screen of death. "Well this worked before ..."


  • 26'

    "Unbelievable. Outrageous," harrumphs Mark in Vermont. "USA will forever go down in history as the team who LOVES a good challenge. "We'll spot you a goal or two before we turn on the thrusters." This won't bring the U.S. masses into believing in soccer (football). Not a proud fan at the moment..."


  • 28'

    Cherundolo puts an easy cross-field pass straight into touch, and walks away shaking his head. The whole team is doing that at the moment, there is virtually no soccer to speak of coming from the U.S. Edu is stripping down to his kit already.


  • 30'

    Substitutions

    Out: Ricardo Clark , In: Maurice Edu

    Ricardo Clark is replaced by Maurice Edu, who gets a hug and a kiss from Bob. Onto Plan B then.


  • 34'

    "U.S. Contractor working with the US Military in Kirkuk, Iraq here," says Rob from Fairmont. "I have managed to catch all of the US games during the World Cup, but they seem ESPECIALLY out of sorts on defense tonight. You pointed out the problem on the left side ... do you think Oguchi Onyewu would be a better fit against Ghana?" I'm not convinced it's as simple as that -- Bocanegra and DeMerit were excellent against Algeria, and they remain strong. But Bornstein and Cherundolo are being pulled all over the place by Ayew and Inkoom, which is putting extra pressure on them.


  • 35'

    Findley draws a save from Kingson and the ball rebounds hard enough off the keeper's boot to scupper an instant second attack ... Dempsey tries another shot from distance, but Kingson gathers it with Findley waiting to snaffle up any loose catches.


  • 37'

    Howard has to save with his feet this time, Asamoah breaking onto a long ball forward and lashing a shot from the left. Bocanegra put in a heavy tackle, and Asamoah needs some magic spray.


  • 39'

    Is Dempsey playing forward or is he the only one who wants to score?" wonders John Vetter in San Diego. "Findley looks lost and Altidore looks lazy at the moment." Altidore has been virtually anonymous, and Findley not much better. But then the U.S. hasn't really had enough of the ball for them to come into the game. Dempsey's got dark clouds forming in his eyes.


  • 41'

    The U.S. has definitely looked better since Edu's arrival -- his composure on the ball has at least afforded them a couple of tilts towards Kingson's goal. And they're pressing Ghana with a bit more urgency now.


  • 43'

    If Ghana poured forward in greater numbers, the U.S. would have been in trouble then, Ayew leaping onto a ponderous ball from Bradley and charging forward only to find his teammates trotting along behind him in no hurry at all.


  • 44'

    Just because Altidore was the first American to 'play' in Spain doesn't mean he's good," says Jason Parker. "I'm stopping the Jozy hype machine right now." Findley tries to steal a bit of attention himself, but can't get around Mensah.

    Ghana end the half with the ball, and the U.S. has a lot of thinking to do here.


  • 45'

    HALFTIME

    The Where Did It All Go Wrong? Department:

    "That was easily the worst half for the USA in South Africa," says Arthur Alcid. "They're lethargic and not sharp at all. Haven't recovered from the emotional highs of Wednesday's game."

    "We finished top of our group and are playing Ghana (not exactly 82 Brazil)," huffs Jason Parker, "but instead we come out with the same hangdog attitude. I'm sick of playing this underdog, scrappy Yank card. We belong here and we need to play like we know it."

    "Bradley has painted himself into a substitute corner with his ridiculous starting lineup" reckons Brian O'Connor. "He should have started with Altidore and Dempsey up top. Findlay cannot finish. At best he is a distraction."

    "You think such an early sub is a sign of a good coach for recognizing/admitting a mistake so early, or a sign of a bad coach for 'changing a winning side'?" asks Austin Collins.

    a. They definitely don't look sharp, but they haven't started a game well yet. I suspect they just didn't believe they'd concede so quickly again, and doing so really shook them.

    b. It can't really be that the U.S. needs to be chasing the game to get going, but the amount of space Tim Howard gave Boateng to aim for suggests otherwise

    c. I couldn't understand Clark's recall having seen Edu play alongside Michael Bradley, but let's go with the boldness Bradley Snr has shown in taking him off before he could do any more damage.


  • 46'

    Substitutions

    Out: Robbie Findley , In: Benny Feilhaber

    Second-half: Benny Feilhaber comes on in place of Findley, so Dempsey will go up front. Makes sense, he seems to be in quite the regal funk; let him have more of an impact up there.


  • 47'

    Fantastic save by Kingson from Feilhaber -- the U.S. looks instantly better and Altidore finds space in the box to roll the ball into the runner, Feilhaber. Close ...


  • 49'

    "No Oguchi Onyewu in the starting line-up," points out Patrick Locke. "First Bradley tactical mistake." I don't think I blame Bradley for being pleased enough with Bocanegra and DeMerit's partnership against Algeria to leave it intact -- Onyewu was a big part of the U.S. ending up chasing two against Slovenia.


  • 52'

    I can hear at least two other players screaming at Bornstein to get out and press the Ghanaians as they come towards the area, which is an improvement on the first half even if Bornstein moves approximately two inches in response. Howard escapes without having to make a save thanks to the vanity of Boateng, who tries an improbable shot when teammates were available in the area.


  • 54'

    "Why does Bob Bradley keep going with Findley in the starting lineup?" asks Daniel Reichert in San Antonio. Beats me. Pace alone isn't enough (ask Theo Walcott). I'd have had Buddle. But let's focus on the second half now; the U.S. looks a heck of a lot better for the break, and Donovan's getting into the game.


  • 57'

    The 10 minutes since we restarted have been almost the polar opposite to the first half: the US looks confident and is going for goal, while Ghana look rattled and are giving the ball up easily.


  • 58'

    And just as I say that, Ayew steams up the right and almost plays Gyan in -- a sliding DeMerit cuts out the ball just in time.


  • 60'

    Donovan is playing like he's been offered immortality for a decent second half showing, and Feilhaber has another chance to shoot from the edge of the area before being closed down. It would be quite incredible if the U.S. plays like this for another half an hour without scoring.


  • 62'

    U.S. 1-1

    Goal - Donovan (pen)

    Donovan looks like he's going to be sick before taking it, but sends it in via the inside of the right post. Game on!


  • 64'

    That must have been SOME kinda halftime "pep-talk" in the U.S. locker room!" says Rob in Fairmont, sounding as excited as Bill Clinton looks. I think I spy a tear in his eye.


  • 67'

    What a great ball straight through the defense from Donovan ...  Altidore runs onto it but his first touch sends the ball into outrushing keeper territory, and Kingson slides in to make the tackle -- very bravely, I might add. That could so easily have ended up with another penalty and a substitution in goal.


  • 70'

    Altidore's moments on the ball are swinging wildly between "good touch for a big man" and "oh the horror, the horror!"


  • 72'

    Substitutions

    Out: Hans Sarpei , In: Lee Addy

    The U.S. playing well and getting lots of chances is more stressful than the U.S. playing like crap," says Phil Fraser between mouthfuls of fingernails. "So. Many. Chances." Having watched all of England's matches, I'd say take the second-half performance and be glad of it.

    Ghana substitution, Addy on for Sarpei, who's had a fair old tussle with Dempsey since the restart.


  • 74'

    The first time Ghana have got near threatening Howard's goal in this half, but Gyan's header flies over the bar. I hate to tempt fate, but I had a feeling this game might go to extra time.


  • 76'

    Substitutions

    Out: Kevin Prince Boateng , In: Stephen Appiah

    Ooh! Bradley sneaks into the area and onto the end of an Altidore ball, and while the defense stand with their hands up for offside, the midfielder shoots unchallenged. But it's hardly a piledriver and Kingson scoops it up.

    Appiah replaces Boateng, who's limping and has a mark down his thigh that looks suspiciously like it came from a stud.


  • 81'

    This ref seems pretty good," says Austin Collins. "It seems to this novice that he lets the players play, but is quick to penalize when play goes from spirited to reckless." He's been excellent, I think -- and ignores Altidore's pleas for a penalty after his shot skews wide under pressure from Mensah. Right call.


  • 83'

    There are just a couple of signs that the U.S. is getting desperate to avoid extra time, and it's making them ragged -- Dempsey attempts to shoot with a very long free-kick, then Donovan punts a cross long and wide. Up the other end, Gyan skims a header wide.


  • 84'

    We can officially start referring to Altidore as the American Heskey!" giggles Virgle in Little Rock. "Big slow and misses every chance!"


  • 86'

    For the first time I can remember this half, Ghana work the ball forward really, really nicely, but Gyan (I think) strays offside attempting to shape his run onto the end of a pass from Inkoom (I think). Don't pretend you really care which exact player it was.


  • 88'

    So, assuming the next few minutes do not yield a goal, and I don't log-off in a huff that I didn't put money on 1-1 after 90 minutes, what does Bradley do with an extra half hour? Just keep plugging away or try another of those madness/genius substitutions we saw earlier in the tournament?


  • 89'

    Decent chance for Ghana, and DeMerit heads clear but accidentally puts his boot into Gyan's chest. Ouch.


  • 90'

    Three minutes added on, and Ghana are keeping the ball at the moment.

    Ayew booked for a trip on Altidore that may actually have been committed by Altidore's other leg; Ayew would miss the next match if Ghana went through.

    Ghana win a corner with seconds left on the clock...

    but it's headed over. Ready for extra-time?


  • 91'

    Extra Time

    Substitutions

    Out: Jozy Altidore , In: Herculez Gomez

    The U.S. kickoff having replaced Altidore with Gomez. "Do you play conservatively in the extra 30 minutes with the thought that, in the penalty-kick scenario, you have the advantage in goal?" wonders Graham in Dallas. That would be a fairly risky strategy, but the U.S. is certainly stronger in goal and probably has more reliable penalty takers.


  • 92'

    Ghana 2-1

    Goal - Asamoah Gyan

    Freak out time!" wails Arthur Alcid. All fairly calm so far on the pitch.

    Gyan has put Ghana back in front!

    This was a fairly simple goal but a killer one: Ayew puts the ball up in the air for Gyan to chase, and neither DeMerit nor Bocanegra can halt him despite a fairly desperate attempt from both. Gyan rides the challenge and volleys the ball beyond Howard.


  • 93'

    Bocanegra looks really cross, Bob Bradley more like he's just been given a reasonable quote by a mechanic, and is weighing it up.


  • 96'

    Feilhaber smacks the ball with his laces as he strides into Ghana's area, but it's blocked for a corner. Which will be taken as soon as Ayew's recovered from a dead leg.


  • 98'

    Donovan to Cherundolo, who sweeps the ball to the far post, but Edu's header spins wide. Ayew's back on.


  • 100'

    This has become a very open game, which is great for the neutral but agony for everyone else. Are the comeback kings about to be dethroned?


  • 102'

    A couple of minutes of defense versus attack is broken up by Gomez, but the American break is itself stopped just short of become dangerous. What I'm saying is, it's getting a bit er, bitty.


  • 105'

    A little better from the U.S., but there's only 30 seconds left to do anything before the change of ends. Dempsey runs into a dead-end just before the whistle blows. Remember to breathe.


  • 106'

    And we're off again. It's all gone very quiet out there...


  • 107'

    "We're a second-half team! We're a second-half team! We're a second-half team!" chants Tammy, almost convincingly.


  • 109'

    Bornstein buys a free-kick from Inkoom just outside the left tip of the area, but Kingson punches Donovan's attempt clear. That loud clock is back in my ear.


  • 110'

    Substitutions

    Out: Inkoom , In: Sulley Muntari

    Boos around the stadium as Inkoom forces play to stop with a back injury that appeared to come on rather more heavily when the U.S. retrieved the ball in the final third. Tsk, tsk.

     

    ... and he's actually making four men stretcher him off.

     

    Sulley Muntari replaces Inkoom, eventually. There's a good few seconds being wasted at every opportunity.


  • 114'

    Cherundolo has a couple of chances to find teammates in the area, but each cross is misplaced. There are about five minutes left. This should be when the US starts to play well, shouldn't it?


  • 116'

    My stomach's in knots, I can only imagine how everyone else is feeling. The US can't string enough passes together to build up a head of steam, at the moment, and Ghana's more than happy to run the clock down.


  • 119'

    The USA midfield is starting to look pretty leggy, even Donovan's running through quicksand. I don't think I'm going to get to type that happy ending.

    I thought it might come then, Gomez nods the ball into Dempsey's path and he shoots but it's blocked... USA corner...


  • 120'

    Oh another firm punch by Kingson, and the ball is bouncing around all over the place in the penalty area as Howard comes up and stays up. Nothing doing, but there are two more added minutes, not sure where they came from.


  • 123'

    FULLTIME

    Constant pressure from USA now, but Dempsey's header goes a yard or so wide just as it looks like the comeback might actually be on.

    Just as the U.S. finally wrests the ball from Ghana, the referee blows the final whistle, and it's the Africans who go through. This was just one comeback too many.

    So after all that, the U.S. heads home in the round of 16. Michael Bradley has taken himself to the corner of the dugout and looks absolutely distraught. Donovan, too, is concentrating on his boots. It's hard to say that the U..S has been unlucky in this match -- yes, Ghana's strikers were surprisingly clinical, but for all the blood and thunder of the second half performance, the U.S. never really manufactured a gilt-edged chance for itself.


Editor's note: Please refresh for updates.

This is the third time in five World Cups that the U.S. has reached the second round, which makes me think it must be getting the hang of it this soccer lark. Landon Donovan might've popped up a bit sooner with the winning goal against Algeria and saved us all a few Aspirin, but we'll forgive him, just this once.

The U.S. could do with a better start against Ghana, a tidy team that doesn't like to chase a deficit as much as the U.S. seems to -- and let's not forget that the U.S. has never gone on to win a World Cup match in which it's fallen behind. I felt a bit crestfallen when Jozy Altidore said he wanted "a boring game" (these things don't write themselves, you know), but he makes a valid point, doesn't he? Or is it the last-ditch, heart-in-mouth heroics that have got people hooked in the first place?

I've got this game down as a first-goal-wins kind of contest, and on the other side waits a second quarterfinal in eight years if the U.S. wins. As the cliché goes, there are no easy games in the World Cup, but having avoided Germany and perhaps Argentina, Bob Bradley must stare at his wallchart and let his eyes wander to the semifinals. I realize (so you can stop sending the emails) that there are still some Americans who question any sporting contest that can end in a draw, but there are no draws from now on: it's simply death or glory.

A second-round win over Ghana might not be quite as miraculous as defeating the Soviets at hockey in 1980, or have the drama of the Colts' 1958 overtime win over the Giants, but it's a damn good start. Join me here from 2 p.m. ET on Saturday for team news, live instant analysis of the game and a spot of banter, if you fancy it -- email georgina_turner.si@gmail.com

 
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