In a late twist of fate and ecstasy, the United States gallantly and finally slipped one through the posts on Wednesday and emphatically punched their ticket to World Cup 2010, 2nd round.
Dempsey buried this chance in the Yanks' 2006 Cup loss to the Black Stars...he'll need to be efficient on Saturday
Up next for the Yanks? The Ghana Black Stars, Africa’s last team remaining in the tournament and the United States slayer in the final group game in World Cup 2006.
Ghana, who most expected would wilt in a tough Group D without their midfield quarterback Michael Essien, did the exact opposite.
With a steely win over trendy final four pick Serbia in the opening round and a draw against an undermanned Australia side, Ghana strode into the final game against UEFA powerhouse Germany with the group lead and with group scenarios in their favor.
A 1-0 loss coupled with Australia’s narrow win over Serbia sent Ghana through to face the Group C-winning States.
Ghana deploy in a 4-1-4-1 with Asamoah Gyan, the lone striker, the key
Ghana employs a disciplined 4-1-4-1 formation that drops the fierce, but slight Anthony Annan–a more athletic Wilson Palacios or, better, a reincarnation of former England great Paul Ince–in the holding role traditionally held by Essien above an extremely seasoned defense.
How seasoned is the backline? From left to right it reads: John Paintsil, (a starter at Fulham in the EPL) John Mensah (formerly of Lyon and now shepherd of Sunderland’s defense), Jonathan Mensah (an extremely powerful and strong central defender who has stepped in for injured Isaac Vorheh) and finally Hans Sarpei (a shifty and sound player out of the Bundesliga).
Only Jonathan Mensah, no relation to John, is inexperienced, but he’s also candidate to start next year at Serie A side Udinese. He’s athletic and certainly no slouch–watch the Germany game.
The back four is smart, tough, athletic and by my review only cracks when having to face spurts of tough pressure against the run-of-play. Against Serbia, especially, the fundamentals and cover of the defense was…..exceptional.
Ghana is not to be trifled with in the air (Jonathan Menshah, #8)
The Black Stars like to control things ahead with Annan in their midfield. They’ll play the ball around looking for chances to serve up to striker Asamoah Gyan (we’ll talk about his impact shortly), who’s making a run against the grain of the opponent’s defense.
The midfield should have been a strength for Ghana, but Chelsea star (and my favorite soccer player) Michael Essien went down with a knee injury and volatile Inter Milan tracker Sulley Muntari has had a love-hate relationship with the team and coaching staff.
Muntari cursed the coaching staff after the Australia match, but was not Anelka’d back to the homeland. He’s, to date, been coming off the bench.
Of the remaining midfielders, the States face yet another Portsmouth player in Kevin Prince Boateng who made news recently for relegating Michael Ballack to crutches for the World Cup.
It’s up top where the Yanks will have to contend with the biggest goal threat in Asamoah Gyan, but they’ll have the inside track on him. Gyan also fronts Ligue 1 Rennes, Carlos Bocanegra’s club. Gyan is widely considered the next superstar from the Black Stars and with good reason. He’s strong on the ball, extremely smart with technical runs and goes hard to headers.
That said, Ghana hasn’t been able to score this World Cup from the run-of-play. Both goals that Ghana have are penalty kicks. Beyond Gyan, Ghana lacks offensive creativity in the midfield and is also almost too disciplined going forward to take a risk and create an opportunity.
Ghana attack: (Blue=ball movement, Ayew w/ball)
The Black Stars will try to move the ball using the flanks, but in a wholly different manner from the State’s last opponent, Algeria.
Ghana will ping the ball from Annan in the holding role out to one of their wide midfielders. That wide midfielder depending upon what the defense offers has multiple plays including carrying the ball. The ball carrier will typically look for: A run from Gyan traipsing diagonally across the defense, a lead pass to an interior midfielder down the line or an overlap from the defender depending the situation and tempo of the game.
Beyond this Ghana typically lack offensive industry and will work the ball out of the corners, predominantly with service into the box or, less frequently, to a trailing midfielder for a shot right outside the box.
Now, let’s continue with our customary TSG preview.
As usual, we go.
TSG What We’re Looking For.
11 At The Whistle
TSG What We’re Looking For:
• Can the Yanks get loose down the flanks?
With Pantsill and Sarpei pushing up high and making runs for the Black Stars, the best way to counter this is the Yanks’ celebrated counter flanker counter. I expect Robbie Findley to start again with Landon and Cherundolo on the right right and attack Ghana’s left flank where they originated most of their attacks against both Germany and Serbia.
The States, who will deploy in their 4-2-2-2 this game, will use Bradley, Donovan and Dempsey for carriage against the pressing Ghana defenders and hope to unlock their own diaganol runs from Altidore or Findley. That’s how to beat the Ghana defense.
The Yanks are going to need Findley to be better with his final ball in this one for sure.
Gyan: The next Super Black Star
• Where Gyan goes, you follow
A slight variation on the popular supporter’s group chant, huh?
There is no question that Asamoah Gyan is the space creator and catalyst for the entire Ghana offense. Gyan is a strong, swift and aggressive lone striker who will float in the center of the pitch and then lay off a pass for a midfield shot, make a diagonal run down the flank to open space or take a fly pattern between a central defender and a winger.