United States (0-0-0) vs. Ghana (0-0-0), 6 p.m. (ET)
06/16/2014 9:45 AM
06/16/2014 9:50 AM
Natal, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Ghana and the United States will renew their World Cup rivalry when the two nations meet at the Estadio das Dunas on Monday.
The two countries have faced one another in the past two editions of the World Cup with the African nation getting the better of the Americans on both occasions.
Ghana earned a 2-1 win over the States in the final match of the group stage in 2006, knocking Bruce Arena's men out of the competition.
The Black Stars doomed the Yanks to a similar fate in 2010 when they met in the Round of 16. The two sides were level after regulation, but Ghana managed to advance behind Asamoah Gyan's goal in the third minute of extra time.
Things are different four years later, though. The United States has been reinvented under the guidance of Jurgen Klinsmann, who has managed to implement an attacking style of play never before seen from the Americans.
There are still some key players returning from America's 2010 team, including Michael Bradley. Having such experienced players that have faced Ghana in previous competitions should aid the U.S. national team's preparations for Monday's contest.
"Ghana's a team that can cause you trouble, especially in the attacking half," Bradley said. "In the attacking part of the field they have guys who have a mix of athleticism, technical ability, and the way they can take certain plays and almost improvise and turn that half play into all of a sudden, a chance. So, we have to understand what they are all about.
"I do think it's a different team than the one that we played in 2010, and obviously a different coach. In 2010, they played more a 4-1-4-1. We're pretty organized, so I think all of those little details are to still to be seen; how now they're going approach the first game against us."
The entire United States camp has made no secret of the importance of taking three points from its opening match, especially since clashes against Portugal and Germany later in the group stage will make qualification for the knockout round quite difficult for Klinsmann's men.
"I think when you talk about a big tournament like this, everybody goes into the first game with the idea that you want points," Bradley said. "I read an interview with (Spain defender Gerard Pique) yesterday where he said for a team like Spain it's no different, they're playing Holland and their idea is that they want the result, they need points.
"Everybody starts at zero, so the first game is so important. Statistically the chances of advancing go way up now if you're able to get a point or three from the first game. We've certainly made no secret of the fact that all the focus at this point is about Ghana and making sure that we do everything we can so that on June 16 we step on the field and are ready to leave it all out there knowing that a good result puts us in a really good spot."
The same can be said for Ghana, though. It is an equally important match for the Black Stars given that they also will face Germany and Portugal to round out the group stage.
But if there is one perceived Achilles heel for the Ghanaians, it is their inexperience. Not only are they are the youngest team at the tournament with an average age of 25 years, 6 months, but James Kwesi Appiah, the country's head coach, only has two years of management experience.
"Since I took over the job, I have been my own man. If you let someone influence your decision, they won't respect you," said Appiah, who was an assistant to Serbian Milovan Rajevac when Ghana reached the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup. "You do things your own way when in charge of the team and if they don't work out you become responsible for the consequences. If they do, you take the honors."
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