The USA's round of 16 match is previewed.
What: 2010 FIFA World Cup Second Round
When: Saturday, June 26; 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Royal Bafokeng Stadium; Rustenburg, South Africa
TV: ABC and Univision
HARTBEESPOORT DAM, South Africa -- On Wednesday afternoon, the United States Men's National Team accomplished the task they set for themselves before coming to the 2010 FIFA World Cup: reaching the second round. But they aren't satisfied. The undefeated Stars and Stripes, who battle Ghana in Royal Bafokeng where they drew with England 1-1 to begin their campaign, are the highest ranked squad in their quarter of the tournament. The semifinals are within reach.
"It's not a failure if we don't win Saturday, but there's such a massive opportunity to do something so much more special, and I really want to emphasize that to everybody and to make sure we understand that," Landon Donovan said at a Thursday afternoon press conference. The Americans have the talent, the confidence, and the spirit to defeat the last African side remaining. Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more.
Four years ago, the Black Stars handed the Americans a crushing 2-1 defeat in Nuremburg, Germany, knocking the U.S. out of the tournament. Saturday represents a chance at payback for Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, and Donovan who all started the match. Earlier in the week, the Los Angeles Galaxy star called it his lowest moment as a professional and he's determined to make amends. "What I remember most personally is my tentativeness and the immediate feeling afterwards of the finality of it and how disappointing that was," he said. He won't be tentative again. Neither will his teammates. There isn't a closer squad in the tournament and after three inspired displays, they honestly believe they can play with anyone.
The Three Lions and Slovenia tallied before the U.S. joined the party. In a must-win situation against Algeria, the Red, White, and Blue waited until the 91st minute to find the back of the net. The Americans have proved they can play from behind, but they need to start the match with the same energy level. (To be fair, they should have tallied three or four times versus the Desert Foxes but still very nearly conceded to Rafik Djebbour in the early going.) If the U.S. score first on Saturday, there's a real chance their opponents will become disorganized and concede another quickly.
Africa's Last Hope
Ghana not only carries the weight of a nation, but also the hopes of an entire continent on their shoulders. Africa's sides were supposed to shine during the '10 tournament. They haven't, but the Black Stars represent one last chance to inspire. The squad present problems for the Americans. "Their athleticism will be difficult to deal with. My guess is that they'll have quite a bit of support," Donocan said. "Like a lot of African teams, they are fairly unpredictable sometimes, which can be a plus or a minus." They also have issues of their own. Sulley Muntari, one of the team's best players, had harsh words for manager Milovan Rajevac after a 1-1 draw with Australia. The coach and the Inter Milan midfielder patched things up with the help of captain Stephen Appiah, but tensions are still high. Can the squad respond, or will they panic under the pressure?
Projected U.S. Lineup
Projected Ghana Lineup
United States 2-1 Ghana
Noah Davis (@noahedavis) covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com and is reporting from the World Cup in South Africa.