Todays must win group stage game between the United States and Ghana is a pick em when trying to determine who is the favorite and who is the underdog.
The Group G opponents are no strangers to each other.
The USA men’s team is ranked 13 in the world while the Black Stars of Ghana are 37th according to the latest FIFA rankings.
While the USA has the lofty ranking, Ghana has ousted the US in two consecutive World Cups.
In the 2006 World Cup held in Germany, Ghana ousted the USMNT of the group stage with a 2-1 victory despite a Clint Dempsey goal.
In 2010 the two teams met again in the round of 16 in South Africa’s Rustenburg stadium and once again the Ghanaian’ broke the Yankees hearts once again with a 2-1 score line. Clint Dempsey drew a penalty that was converted by Landon Donovan.
While both team are aware of the history between them, a good result in the most competitive group in Brazil is paramount.
“It’s crucial for any team to get something from that first game. The importance can’t be overstated. You win that game and you get a feel-good factor working; get some momentum”, Said USMNT Goal keeper Tim Howard. “We don’t want to play catch-up in the group stages. We don’t want to be biting our fingernails in that third game and hoping some other team can do us a favour.”
In the past four World Cups 78% percent of teams who won there first group stage made it to the next round compared to 56% who tied and 9% who lost their first game.
In order for the USA team to get a positive result against Ghana, the backline will need to be in sync.
Demarcus Beasley should start at left back, Fabian Johnson the Right Back and, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron in the middle meaning all four will need to be in constant communication, during set pieces, off side traps and switching overlapping runs by the Black Stars talented midfield and front line.
Asamoah Gyan scored six goals in six qualifying appearances and will lead the Black Stars attack.
Midfielders Michael Essien, Kevin- Prince Boateng and Andre Ayew are a talented trio that can pass, carry the ball and score if left unmarked on the offensive third.
USA Midfielders Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley will need to hold on to the ball long enough to give Team Captain Clint Dempsey and center forward Jozy Altidore time to make slashing runs through Ghana suspect defense.
"They're coming for revenge. Mentally they don't want us to beat them for the third time, so it's going to make the match very difficult," said Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan. "The USA are a good side, they're a very dangerous team, but we think of ourselves first."We've got young, talented players who are coming up and playing well in their clubs.
Todays game will be won with discipline in the backline, creativity in the middle and decisive fishing up front.
With the weather playing havoc in Natal, a lucky bounce here and there might be the difference maker.
USA (4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1; probable): Howard; Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson; Beckerman, Jones; Dempsey, Bradley, Bedoya; Altidore
Ghana (4-2-3-1; probable): Dauda; Asamoah, Boye, Mensah, Afful; Essien, Rabiu; Muntari, Prince-Boateng, A Ayew; Gyan.