Being in one of the hardest groups in the World Cup, the United States need a vital three points in their opening game against Ghana. In 2010, Ghana knocked the Unites States out of the tournament in a Round of 16 overtime thriller. After finishing 1-1 in regular time, the Black Stars shocked the United States when Asamoah Gyan scored the dagger in the 93rd minute that saw Ghana go through. This World Cup, the United States hope to turn the cards and squeak out a victory over the physically superior Ghana team. There are three key things the United States must do to get the victory over the Black Stars.
Finish inside the box:
The United States may not be the most skilled team in the World Cup, but they are clinical inside the box. 38% of the United States goals in World Cup qualifiers were scored inside the 6 yard box, second among the 32 teams in the World Cup Finals, most of these off of set pieces. With the heads of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, along with the perfectly timed runs of Michael Bradley, the United States are always a threat on set pieces. Defending set pieces is also one of Ghana’s team weaknesses. Expect to see Graham Zusi swinging in set pieces that will be capitalized on by the Yanks.
Another key element that could lead the United States to victory is scoring first. Obviously every team wants to score first, but scoring firs against Ghana is especially important. In the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers, Ghana never came back to win a game after being scored on first. This clearly ranks last in the 32 teams at the World Cup. It is important for the United States to make sure that they press high and make chances early in the game. Reversely, if Ghana scores first, the United States will have a tough challenge, because Ghana never lost after getting the lead in the World Cup Qualifiers. However, Ghana scoring first would not be fatal, because the United States are the “comeback kings“, but scoring first would not only put the United States off to a flying start, but statistics would back up an American victory.
Stopping Kevin-Prince Boateng:
Anyone who watched Serie A in 2012 saw Kevin-Prince physically dominate the midfield for AC Milan. After transferring to Shalke 04, Boateng scored 7 goals in 28 appearances for the Bundesliga side. American defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones will have to body-up against the large Boateng. Jermaine Jones played as Kevin-Prince’s teammate at Shalke 04 this season, so knows how the Ghanaian star plays. Kevin-Prince can be deployed at many different positions, so he may be hard to mark, but expect to see him in the center of the midfield. Boateng is important to shut down because of his strength, endurance, work rate, ball skills, and ability to shoot and pass with both feet equally. Boateng is also known for his bone-crunching tackles, which make him an even more fearful player. Shutting down the best, and most important Ghanaian playmaker is vital to a United States victory.