Just hours away from kickoff in Natal, our staff writers are taking a stab at predicting the outcome of the USA's opening game against Ghana.
Will the Yanks inflict sweet revenge on the team responsible for the final fatal blow at the last two tournaments or will the Ghanaians make it three-for-three? Here is what the tea leaves are telling us:
When I saw the draw I had a gut feeling that the US would lose this game. I want to be wrong, in weeks past I've started to believe I will be wrong, but I have to stay with my gut here. What I see happening is the US pushing for the three points it needs, and that allowing the Ghanaians to attack a stretched defense. I'll go with the final score at 2-1 to Ghana, leaving the US needing to take three points from Portugal if the team wants to see the second round.
Of all the American's opponents in Group G, Ghana have been the only ones to openly indicate that they're not as concerned with the Yanks as they are with the other teams. Reasonable as that may be, I know the Americans have had their sights set firmly on Ghana since December. The Black Stars are good, but I think an early Clint Dempsey goal leaves them shell shocked and Jozy Altidore adds the eventual game winner as the USA squeak's out a 2-1 win. Hey, the law of averages says the dice have to roll our way against this team at some point, don't they?
This game will be won on the transition - mainly, whether the United States can stop Ghana's counterattack. We all know what the Ghanaians have done to the Yanks in the past, and this team is loaded with guys who can hurt teams in the same manner. With the U.S. fullbacks pushing forward in attack, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones must play flawlessly in breaking up Ghana's attack for the U.S. to have a chance. I believe they will, and the Americans will be motivated to end Ghana's reign of terror against them. Yanks win, 3-1.
The US attack gains fluency with each passing game and seems poised to hang some crooked numbers on whomever it lines up against. Whether he scores or not, look for Jozy to have a huge impact on this game. Furthermore, I expect the trio of Jones, Beckerman and Bradley to dominate the talented Ghanaian midfield. But this game won't be decided by the offense; a win for the US hinges on its ability to defend. The Black Stars come into the game having showcased their firepower and, more importantly, pace versus South Korea. Until it proves that it isn't, the defense is a liability. USA 2 Ghana 2
The United States has four players in the team that played in the 2-1 second round loss to Ghana in 2010, while the Black Stars have six players in their team. Monday's game will have new players, but it will remain just as close as the previous two encounters. The winner will be the team that finishes its chances more efficiently. The U.S. defense needs to avoid committing penalties as Ghana is very good at swaying the referees to call them. It will be close, but the United States will finally exorcise their bad luck. USA 3 Ghana 2.
The US needs to contain Ghana's counterattack. The most dangerous player for the Black Stars for me is Kwadwo Asamoah, who starts at left wing back but slides up and down the field, creating havoc with his exceptional dribbling and quickness. I feel that Ghana's midfield will be the talking point of the game - whether they scored or failed to capitalize. Although he scored twice against Nigeria, I still question Jozy Altidore. Will we see the physical poacher or the enigma of Sunderland? Ultimately, the United States has to win this game, but I can only see a draw. USA 2 Ghana 2.