With the United States Men's National Team ready to kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup next week, SportingKC.com will be taking a look at each of their Group G opponents with some help from Matt Tomaszewicz (aka the Shin Guardian). First up is a look at African side Ghana, who will face the USA on June 16 at Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil.
Jonathon Feyerherm: What are your thoughts on this Ghana side and their form heading into the World Cup?
Matt Tomaszewicz: They've been about the same all through qualifying and they're as close to their stereotype of their team as possible. They play pretty good defense and their attack is essentially route one or on the floor through the middle. If you give up a turnover, you're going to be in a lot of trouble against them. That's pretty much the team in a nutshell.
JF: Who are the key players for Ghana?
MT: It all starts with Asamoah Gyan, who as many people will remember lit up the U.S. in 2010 to the tune of two goals to knock them out of the tournament. Michael Essien will probably sit deep for them and play more of a Pirlo role than necessarily a destroyer or deep holding role. They'll try to compress the midfield. They've got a player, Majeed Waris, who wasn't on the team last year and is now doubtful after getting injured on Monday. He is such a key player because Gyan takes so much of the focus of the centerbacks for the opposing team that Waris is really good at finding the spaces. It's kind of similar to Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore in the past for the U.S. He's really good at finding places where Gyan pulled the defense out and he's slotted in. He may not play and that could be a big deal. Jordan Ayew is a decent back-up but he's not anywhere as good as Majeed Waris. And then a player who may or not play, but I think he will, is Daniel Opare. He's an overlapping right back who will definitely threaten the U.S. at times if he plays.
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JF: Is there anything you can attribute to Ghana's success against the U.S. in previous World Cups?
MT: No, I think it's kind of weird to see how the ball bounces. If you remember, both Jozy Altiore and Robbie Findley should have hit some shots in 2010. Eddie Johnson should have hit a shot in 2006. It's just come down to that and Ghana's strikers, specifically Gyan in 2010, converting their chances and having a better shooting percentage than the U.S. The interesting thing this year is the U.S. tends to be a little more conservative and defensive than in years past under Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley. I can imagine this game going 1-0, 2-1, or 3-2 or anything like that.
JF: Finally, what are you expecting to see and looking forward to from this match?
MT: I think it's interesting. The whole key, and I think this for almost all the teams in the World Cup, is how well they play in the midfield. For the U.S. midfield, how narrow they can defend and attack a little - that will be the key. They actually match up well against Ghana. It would not surprise me for them to get a win or draw but if they lose I wouldn't be shocked.