Let’s Be Wary Of USA

fansFor the next six months, Ghanaians would be thinking of how to navigate their way from the claws of Group G unscathed as the Black Stars take on Germany, Portugal as well as the USA in the Brazil 2014 World Cup tournament.

Indeed, shortly after the draw in Brazil last Friday, blood-curdling cries filled the air back in Ghana – many dreading the meeting with FIFA’s second best team in the world -Germany and fifth-rated Portugal.

No one talked about the US in positive light. If anything at all, the Americans were scorned, disparaged and belittled. Many were heard saying Ghana has an automatic three points in the kitty already – ahead of the start of the tournament.

“Even if we struggle against Germany and Portugal, the US will give us the consolation,” one fan screamed in excitement.

Of course, the fan’s sense of supreme optimism may have stemmed from Ghana’s stranglehold on the United States team – having beaten the Americans in subsequent World Cup at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.

There is absolutely nothing wrong being buoyantly optimistic and sanguine of crushing the Americans again, but we have to bear in mind that this time they would come at us like famishly-enraged hyenas after their prey.

Indeed, we would get it all wrong if we approach the June 16 USA game with any sense of  remissness and laxity – for that game would be the toughest yet.

Truth is, no side in world football would sit duck to be beaten by the same opponent for the third time running on such an enormous stage.

USA’s German manager Jurgen Klinsmann may not have minced words when he embossed his intentions of upstaging Ghana to the mast, this time around.

“After two losses, it’s about time to beat Ghana, I guess,” insists Klinsmann, in an interview with Associated Press.

Klinsmann took over from Bod Bradley after the team’s ego-shattering exit in South Africa to Ghana at the 1/16th stage. With two demoralising World Cup losses to remember against Ghana, the German would certainly be concerned about how to turn the tables around.

Let us not forget Klinsmann was in that ruthless German team that white-washed Ghana 6-1 in a 1993 friendly in Bochum. That embarassing result is now known in Ghanaian football circles as the Bochum disaster.

Similar positive assertion is shared by former Fulham star, Clint Dempsey,

“It’s one of those situations where you feel hard done by because the last two times we played Ghana, they’re the team that beat us and kind of crushed our dreams of trying to continue in the World Cup.

“But I think when we get a little bit of luck, we’re due a win against them,” Dempsey assured.

There is an open joke that the United States would cartwheel in celebration if they beat Ghana – and still get booted out of the campaign. That, perhaps, suggests the importance the Americans have attached to the game.

Klinsmann has decided to make several roster changes that seem to create a few new position battles and important decisions for him to make before next year’s tournament.

The four players that were dropped from the roster are as follows: Herculez Gomez, Oguhi Onyewu, Jack McInerney and Corey Ashe. The four players added are: Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson.

The additions are the main source of intrigue in this transaction due to the fact that three of the four players (Gonzalez, Besler and Johnson) are regarded as “A” team players. Gonzalez and Besler are considered to be the future of the centre-back position for the US team, which causes some pondering to be done about the centre-backs already on the roster for this tournament.

Michael Orozco Fiscal and Clarence Goodson were very efficient and consistent in group play, especially in a difficult qualifier against Costa Rica. The question becomes whether Klinsmann will simply drop them in favour of his preferred pair of centre-backs, Besler and Gonzalez. These two additions have the potential to rock a boat that has seen nothing but smooth-sailing so far in this tournament.

The chemistry developed between Orozco Fiscal and Goodson has been a pleasant sight so far, not to mention their aerial ability, which only Gonzalez can really match, as Besler has not been as proficient as these three players in the air.

Besler’s ability shines technically, position-wise, and through his passing, in particular, his long range passing. His rapport with Gonzalez has also been significantly improved over the World Cup qualifying games to support the idea that these two are the future of the position for this team.

The World Cup is just six months away, and Klinsmann’s announcement on his final team is just five months away. That does not seem like much time for anybody new to break into the USA picture, but the upcoming January national team camp will offer several players a golden opportunity to make the kind of impression that could ultimately lead to a ticket to Brazil.

As much as the training camp, which will be split between the USA and Brazil, will feature plenty of familiar faces, Klinsmann is sure to call in some new options, and bring back some players who have played their way back into the picture as potential depth options. A majority of the spots on the World Cup roster are spoken for, but there is still more than enough time for a good player to push himself into the picture and give Klinsmann a tough decision to make.

So, it is getting limpily clearly by the day that Ghana will meet a consummately different USA opposition in Brazil and the Stars better gird their loins for a ferocious battle.

We do not need anybody to tell us about the German assignment. For sure, it is going to be Ghana’s biggest test, having beaten the Stars 1-0 in the South Africa Mundial. Of course, the Stars have come a long way since they were ‘roasted’ by the Germans in a Bochum friendly, and would feel motivated getting a kind of revenge when the two meet in Fortaleza on Saturday June 21.

Portugal, Ghana’s opponents on Thursday June 26 in Brasilia, have an impressive team, but are beatable. Once Cristiano Ronaldo’s side had to make it via the hard way, upstaging Sweden in a play-off, suggests they also have some weaknesses which the Stars must explore and exploit to full advantage.

At a time that many ruled out the Stars and gave them no dog’s chance at the Germany 2006 World Cup, they rode over the tempest and made it to the second round – beating FIFA’s second best team then – Czech Republic on the way. Again in the 2010 edition, Ghana crushed its way to the quater final stage, drilling fourth-rated Serbia along the way. Clearly, Ghana is no respector of big names.

But the real battle is the Monday, JUne 16 Natal game against the USA. Hopefully, Once we scale that cagey hurdle, there would be no turning back! By John Vigah

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