It’s been a continuous contradiction from Jurgen Klinsmann: The US can’t win the World Cup, but they’re here to shock the world. They’re not underdogs in the Group of Death, but they’re here to shock the world.
It’s anyone’s guess what Klinsmann really means, and it’s been anyone’s guess what Klinsmann’s thought process was in many spots along the bumpy road to tonight’s game in Natal.
The good news is, the USA has arrived at their first game of the 2014 World Cup. The time for talking, double-talking, and talking in circles is over. It’s time to perform.
It’s Ghana again, of course, for the third tournament running. The US’ unlikely kryptonite from Africa have arrived in a rich vein of form, having demolished South Korea 4-0 in their final friendly, one-upping the American’s impressive 2-0 victory over Nigeria.
It’s all been on the up and up for Ghana since their shocking rampage of a victory over Bob Bradley’s Egypt in the African playoff to get to Brazil. Michael Essien’s return to the Ghanaian team has been an especially sweet touch, as he missed the historic 2010 tournament.
Ghana is ready for primetime. That 2010 team of raw potential has matured into an extremely dangerous attacking outfit, and while talisman Asamoah Gyan paid the US respect, he said in the pre-match press conference that he thought Ghana posses the more talented team.
Gyan’s strike partner Majeed Waris is an injury question for Ghana, and he’ll be a risk if he is passed fit. Ghana have the ability to blow by the US’ defense and score early and often. It would be befitting of the early trend of this most positive of World Cups.
Klinsmann’s answer would appear to be playing two of his favorite players – Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones – together in an awkwardly formatted diamond midfield designed to get the most out of Michael Bradley, who will play at the point.
The back-four appear to be settled, with DeMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, and the rampaging Fabian Johnson playing in front of Tim Howard. Clint Dempsey will play off Jozy Altidore up top.
The only question in the starting eleven appears to be Alejandro Bedoya or Graham Zusi on the opposite side of the diamond from Jones. Zusi should get the nod here for his gumption and ability to play on the counter.
Ghana should have possession in the game, while the US will try to cover their somewhat fragile defense. The American’s best chances should be, as they often are, on the counter. A loss for either one of these team’s is totally and completely crippling. From a win is real, tangible hope of advancing. The question is, will fear rule the day or will the US and Ghana attack each other.
Klinsmann, for one, has talked about playing without fear and taking the game to even the best opponents. Ghana certainly don’t fear the side their two greatest footballing wins have come against. Neither side is claiming the pitch in Natal as a problem; even after the torrential downpour we saw Mexico and Cameroon get stuck in on Friday. The sun is out now, and this is a night game, so the playing surface should be in fine condition.
This is a most galactic occasion. For the US, it’s the end of a long road to the World Cup and the beginning of their World Cup journey. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Neither could the anticipation. It’s finally go-time from Brazil.
Watch the US against Ghana on US television tonight via: