[BRAZIL 2014]Tim Howard is one of only four starters from the U.S. team that lost to Ghana four years ago in the round of 16 of the World Cup. He says it's ancient history, adding, "This is a different team, with a different mindset.” But what about Ghana?
Six starters from the Black Stars' 2010 team are back, including both goalscorers in the 2-1 overtime win, Kevin Prince Boateng and Asamoah Gyan. StartersJonathan Mensah, who should anchor the backline, Juventus star Kwadwo Asamoah, who runs the left flank, and Andre Ayewalso return, as does veteranSulley Muntari, who came on late in the second overtime period four years ago.
“We felt like it was a game we could win," Howard told reporters Friday before the USA flew to Natal for Monday's game. "I want back a lot of things in life but I can’t get them. I think this team is in a good position to face Ghana. There’s no revenge factor, we don’t feel that, that’s not what’s motivating us. We think that they’re a good team but we also feel that we are slightly better as well.”
Howard, for one, thinks the 2014 Black Stars are very similar to the team of four years ago.
“They are strong individually," he told reporters Friday before the USA fly to Natal for Monday's game. "Obviously, we know how physical they are, so we are going to try to match that. I’ve said it before, very rarely do we get outmatched physically, but this is a team that has the possibility of doing that, so we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen and then just be kind of clever with our positioning and making sure that they don’t hit us in transition.”
Ghana 2 vs. USA 1 (June 2010)
Ghana --Kingson; Sarpei (Addy, 73) , Pantsil, John Mensah, Inkoom (Muntari, 113), Jonathan Mensah; Annan, A.Ayew, Asamoah, Kevin Prince Boateng (Appiah, 78); Gyan.
Ghana 6 vs. Egypt 1 (October 2013)
Ghana --Dauda; Afful, Opare, Akaminko, Sumaila; Essien (Wakaso, 82), Sulley Muntari, A.Ayew (Atsu , 83), Asamoah; Waris, Gyan.
Ghana 4 vs. South Korea 0 (June 2014)
Ghana --Dadau, Afful, Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Asamoah, Rabiu (Acquah 59), Muntari (Agyemang-Badu 59), A.Ayew (Adomah 74), Gyan (Wakaso 64), Waris (K.Ayew 4), Kevin Prince Boateng (Atsu 56),
GHANA 2014.Perhaps no American knows Ghana better than Bob Bradley. He was the coach of the USA four years and coached Egypt, which fell to Ghana in the final round of African qualifying, dropping a 6-1 decision in the first leg that doomed the Pharaohs. He gave his assessment of the Black Stars in an interview with MLSSoccer.com's Jason Saghini and Jesse Marsch, who was a Bradley assistant in 2010.
Bradley says Ghana is different, beginning with its coach, GhanaianKwesi Appiah, who was an assistant four years ago under Milovan Rajevac.
Four years ago, Ghana played a 4-1-4-1 with Anthony Annan as a midfielder in front of the backline, while Appiah now plays with a 4-4-2 with 24-year-old Mohammed Rabiu, an Appiah favorite, according to Bradley, a possibility to start in the center of midfield alongside Michael Essien or Muntari. Rabiu has bounced around clubs in Spain, Italy and France before moving to Russia to play for Kuban Krasnodar last year.
Bradley said Egypt played Ghana even in Kumasi between the two 18-yard lines, but the Black Stars won the game -- handily -- with their play in the penalty area. How the USA fares against Ghana within the two 18s will likely determine the outcome of Monday's meeting.
With that in mind ...
-- Bradley said Richard Kingson, the goalie in 2010, was excellent. Kingson is not with the Black Stars in Brazil, and his replacement is 29-year-old Fatau Dauda, who played his entire career in Ghana before moving to South Africa last year.
-- He said Ghana is very dangerous on set pieces with balls driven in by Asamoah with his left foot. Besides Gyan and Boateng and defenders like John Boye and Mensah coming up, the athleticism of Abdul Majeed Waris (at only 5-foot-8) and Ayew (only 5-foot-9) make them threats in the air on offensive set pieces. On the other hand, he USA can exploit Ghana for the tendency of their defenders lose track of players on set pieces.