Kick-Off: Saturday, June 26, 20:30 CET.
Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg.
Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg.
Banging In From The Wild West
There is always a mixed report on how endearing the sport of football is in the USA. Some observers suggest that the game is not growing as much as one would have wanted it to, while others believe that the popularity of soccer in America is rising.
Whatever the truth may be, it cannot be denied that the Stars and Stripes' dramatic last minute win against Algeria in the group stage was taken in by all football followers back home and that indeed there is an interest in how the US perform in the remainder of the World Cup.
For a nation that doesn't have a massive footballing pedigree, finishing above former world champions England in the group stage is an achievement in itself. The USA drew with Fabio Capello's side in their opening game in Group C, came from 2-0 down to hold Slovenia to a 2-2 draw and scored a last minute winner against Algeria to finish above England in pole position in the group. As a matter of fact, Bob Bradley's side could have even done better point-wise had they not had a goal (wrongly) disallowed against Slovenia.
The USA reached the final of the Confederations Cup in 2009 by defeating Spain in the semis and indeed they will be looking to go on a similar run. The Americans have shown marvellous spirit and gusto in the World Cup so far. They reached the quarter-finals eight years ago in the 2002 World Cup, but four years back in Germany they were ousted from the group stage by Ghana, who defeated them in the final group game and progressed to the second round.
Africa's Florence Nightingale
This is the first that the World Cup has been held on African soil but most of the African teams have been largely disappointing. However, Ghana have been the torchbearer for a football-mad continent and they will be carrying Africa's hopes on Saturday evening too.
Ghana progressed from Group D as runners-up behind Germany but not before they had suffered some tense moments. Serbia Serbs lost their final match 2-1 to Australia but they could have progressed with one more goal - they had a late equaliser disallowed too.
In any case, Ghana did perform well in the group stages, defeating Serbia in their opening game of the campaign and drawing 1-1 with Australia in their second game. The Black Stars made their World Cup debut four years back in Germany and reached the last 16 and this time they will certainly be looking to go a step further and reach the quarter-finals.
Ghana will have the entire African continent cheering for them and, perhaps more importantly, will have the South Africans rooting for them too inside the stadium, which will certainly inject a healthy dose of confidence in them. Milovan Rajevac's team will also try to emulate Cameroon and Senegal. The Indomitable Lions reached the last eight in the 1990 World Cup while Senegal featured in the quarter-finals in 2002.
June 23: USA 1-0 Algeria (World Cup)
June 18: Slovenia 2-2 USA (World Cup)
June 12: England 1-1 USA (World Cup)
June 5: USA 3-1 Australia (Friendly)
May 29: USA 2-1 Turkey (Friendly)
June 23: Ghana 0-1 Germany (World Cup)
June 19: Ghana 1-1 Australia (World Cup)
June 13: Serbia 0-1 Ghana (World Cup)
June 5: Ghana 1-0 Latvia (Friendly)
June 1: Netherlands 4-1 Ghana (Friendly)
Coach Bob Bradley has no injury or suspension worries. He will also have Robbie Findley return from suspension. Centre-back Oguchi Onyewu could return to the starting line-up in place of Jonathan Bornstein.
Probable Line-up (4-4-2): Howard, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra; Donovan, M. Bradley, Edu, Dempsey; Altidore, Findley
Coach Milovan Rajevac is not expected to make too many changes to the side that started against Germany in the last match. Dominic Adiyiah is expected to replace Kwadwo Asamoah in the midfield.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Kingson, Pantsil, John Mensah, Addy, Sarpei; Annan, KP Boateng; Tagoe, Adiyiah, Ayew; Gyan
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Landon Donovan (USA)
Donovan is one of America's greatest ever footballers and he showed his mettle against Algeria in their final group game. The 28-year-old scored the winner against the Africans in injury time and led his nation by the hands to the last 16. Donovan can go in and out of games but the former Bayer Leverkusen man has the potential to make great things happen against Ghana.
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)
The striker looked woeful in front of goal against Germany in their last match but he has been the Black Stars' most reliable striker so far. Gyan scored against Serbia and against Australia and he will be looking to put pressure on the American defence on Saturday. The 24-year-old is a very good striker indeed and given that the USA don't particularly look good in defence, Gyan could be the one to send the Americans into a tailspin.
Both teams have done marvellously to come this far and indeed it is not an easy call to make. The Castrol World Cup match predictor gives the USA a 46% chance of winning the match and Ghana a 28% chance. A draw is put at 26%.
Ghana did look a bit out of their depth against Germany in their last group match while the USA created chance after chance but couldn't finish them against Algeria. The Americans will have the spirit from their last win and should just about edge past the Black Stars.
USA 2-1 Ghana
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Who will come out on top? Check out Castrol Football's 2010 World Cup Match Predictor.