CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Friday, June 25, 2010
The United States men's national team returns to Rustenburg to meet the only African team in the Round of 16, in a rematch of the 2006 group stage game that saw the US ousted from the World Cup.
Four years and four days later, the Americans are intent upon not letting that happen again, and will look to ride the tide of their unprecedented performance in the opening three games.
Finishing on top of their group for the first time, Bob Bradley's crew churned out two gritty comebacks against England and Slovenia before booking their ticket into the knock-out stage in stoppage time against Algeria thanks to a historic goal from Landon Donovan.
Saturday afternoon's game sees Robbie Findley return from suspension and likely resume his role up top with Jozy Altidore.
Donovan and Clint Dempsey can expect to tend the flanks, while central midfielders Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu look to get the starting nod. If he indeed starts as a left midfielder, Dempsey will square off with his Fulham teammate John Pantsil.
Having been rested for the Algeria game, Oguchi Onyewu can expect to make a return to the backline with the usual suspects Steve Cherundolo, Jay Demerit and Carlos Bocanegra.
The Rennes defender will face the task of shutting down his club teammate Asamoah Gyan, positioned up top as a lone striker.
Making just their second appearance in the World Cup finals, the Black Stars are trying to follow up on their impressive debut in 2006 when they ousted the Americans by a score of 2-1 in their third group game, only to fall to the Brazilians in the knock-out stage.
In spite of the absence of star midfielder Michael Essien, coach Milovan Rajevac has guided the Ghanaians through a difficult group, defeating Serbia and drawing with Australia before putting up a fight against the Germans in a 1-0 loss.
Although managing only two goals on penalites in the three games, the tight and well-organized defense helped earn four points that were enough to finish second in group D just ahead of Australia on goal difference.
The respected Hungarian Viktor Kassai has been selected as referee after seeing duty in the encounters between Brazil and North Korea, and Mexico and Uruguay.
As accumulated yellow cards will not be cleared until after the quarterfinals, André Ayew, Anthony Annan, Jonathan Mensah, Prince Tagoe, Lee Addy and Isaac Vorsah could sit out the next match in case of an infraction and a win.
For the Americans, Cherundolo, Demerit and Dempsey also face the same scenario.