Wednesday, June 21, 2006

USA vs Ghana Preview

USA vs. Ghana
10:00am EST ESPN

The USA plays Ghana in a must win match for advancement to the second round and a likely match up with defending World Cup Champion Brasil. In order for either team to advance, they must win. The USA advances with a win and an Italian victory over the Czech Republic. Ghana advances to the second round with a victory over the USA.

So, can the USA advance to the second round? I feel that they can.

First, it takes a victory over Ghana, the very team that downed the Czech Republic 2-0, a team that butchered the USA 3-0. I feel that the USA can get a victory over Ghana, as long as they play with the same motivation, heart, and energy as they did against the Italians. Assuming that the USA takes the field with those qualities and keeps their cool as well, the USA side that just about everyone who follows the Yanks expected will finally show up and get the result.

I would personally like to see something along the lines of a 4-1-3-2 formation, like this one –


Cherundolo – Onyewu – Conrad – Bocanegra


Dempsey – Donovan – Convey

Johnson – McBride

This is a formation that will allow for a strong back line that will provide cover against the Ghana attack, while it allows for Reyna to try and control the midfield with Donovan, with Dempsey, Johnson and McBride attacking the Ghana goal. Convey will be running up the Left side, sometimes covered with Bocanegra, sending in balls towards Johnson and McBride. Donovan will be the floater. He will be the one bridging Reyna and the attack, along with the defense.

Now assuming we get a quick goal or two, barring any injuries or more freakish red cards, I recommend the use of DeMarcus Beasley as the first substitute, as he can either replace McBride, Convey or Dempsey and put more speed on the attack and the defense. Look for him to come on either at the start of the second half or the 60th minute mark. Assuming that he is fit for play, John O’Brien would be my next sub, have him replace McBride and begin to flood the midfield and saturate it with USA players, thus creating a quagmire for any attacking chances that the Ghanaians’ try to mount. Lastly, the final piece for the clogged midfield strategy would be to put Ben Olsen on for Convey. Olsen is the type of player that can murder a clock, just as how Cobi Jones was used in 2002. Olsen sees the field in the early second half if we have a 2 goal lead. He comes on late if we are holding a 1 goal lead.

The flip side of this match will be the side that Ghana fields. As they will be without their two starting forwards, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan, Michael Essian will be the primary focus on the Ghana attack, and the primary focus of the USA defense. Pimpong might get the start, but look for Ghana to use its speedy midfielders as its main source of offense in this match. As long as Onyewu and Conrad control the central defense and Keller stays sharp in goal, the USA should be ok. The speed of the Ghana midfield will test the USA players, especially when the midfielders must track back to help on defense.

So the USA defeats Ghana, gets 4 points. They still need Italy to defeat the Czech Republic. That can happen too.

Right now the Czech Republic are a wounded animal. Their gigantic forward, Koller has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury. Koller was named to the side, but he has not trained with the team since before the USA match. Milan Baros seems to regaining his fitness and might start up front. Koller’s injury would most likely move Lokvenc in as a starting forward, but he has picked up his second yellow card and will be suspended for this match. Jiri Stajner, might be used up front for the Czechs. Central defender Tomas Ujfalusi has been suspended for this match as well, as he picked up a red card against Ghana.

All of this seems to be presenting a good situation for the Italians. Italy are currently at the top of the group with 4 points. 1 more point and they advance to the second round. However, who they face in the second round will be a very large motivational tool for their match with the Czechs. Italy would much prefer to not have to face Brasil in the second round. As the final Group F matches happen after the final Group E matches, the winner of Group F will still yet to be determined, and everyone will still assume that it is Brasil. If Italy wins their match with the Czechs, they win the group and avoid Brasil in the second round. This will be enough for the Italians to go out and play for the victory instead of a draw.

Over all, these two matches should be very open affairs at least for the first 45 minutes. All three sides really need a win. The USA must have 3 points and help to advance. The Czechs and Ghana really need 3 points to assure advancing. Italy needs 3 points to avoid Brasil in the second round.

My predictions:
USA 2 – 0 Ghana
Italy 2 – 1 Czech Republic

Group finish:
1st – Italy
2nd – USA


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