Ahead of the Group G clash in Natal, African football expert Gary Al-Smith discusses Ghana , who face up to a USA side who are previewed by the 44-times capped former US international defender Janusz Michallik.
Gary Al-Smith on Ghana: Ghana’s starting lineup against South Korea in a friendly a week ago was strong, but coach Kwesi Appiah got a pleasant headache after substitute Jordan Ayew bagged a hat-trick. There are injury concerns for Majeed Waris, Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng, but they will be risked if even 90% fit. Appiah favours a 4-3-2-1 formation, so expect Gyan upfront. It’s still not clear who Ghana’s ‘keeper will be, but Kwarasey is the people’s choice. Likely XI: Fatau Dauda - Kwadwo Asamoah, Jonathan Mensah, John Boye, Harrison Afful – Rabiu Mohammed, Sulley Muntari, Andre Ayew – KP Boateng, Asamoah Gyan, Majeed Waris.
Janusz Michallik on USA: Just as in the final warm-up game against Nigeria, I expect to see the same starting XI. Johnson, Cameron, Besler and Beasley will sit in front of Howard in goal. The midfield will consist of Jones and Beckerman in the holding roles with Bradley in front, forming a diamond shape. Bedoya and Dempsey will occupy the wide positions, the latter supporting Altidore as a lone striker. The only question in the lineup may be Graham Zusi in place of Alejandro Bedoya. There are no injuries at the present time.
Gary Al-Smith on Ghana: The biggest tactical talking point recently has been the left back role Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus) has been given. “It is not the same as what I do in Italy, but I can do it,” he said after starring in that position against South Korea. But should Ghana not deploy Asamoah – easily their most potent creative force – in a playmaking position? That said, the Black Stars have scored 10 goals in their last three outings, a continuation of the way Appiah’s team have become free scoring – 42 goals in 17 games – since he took charge in 2012. USA beware.
Janusz Michallik on USA: The 2-1 win against Nigeria was a vast improvement over the previous two wins against Turkey and Azerbaijan. Kyle Beckerman’s introduction as a second holding midfielder gave the USA back four much needed protection and provided balance to the side, which allowed Michael Bradley more freedom to create as well. Psychologically, the three wins prior to the World Cup gave the team confidence and a clearer picture of what the starting lineup will look like. Incredibly enough, the USA’s back four has only played together twice ahead of the first game against Ghana.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
Ghana’s James Kwesi Appiah: “They say it’s the group of death. We will take every game as it comes. We are here to live for as long as possible."
USA’s Jurgen Klinsmann: "For us now, talking about winning the World Cup is just not realistic. First, we have to make it through the group. So let’s stay with our feet on the ground and say, let’s get that group done and then the sky is the limit.”
Gary Al-Smith on Ghana: Majeed Waris literally came from nowhere. He was given a try in a friendly last year and he simply grabbed it. The young forward is Ghana’s most exciting prospect. He knows when to move, when to shoot and has finally given Asamoah Gyan a partner up front. Should he start, the USA will find him hard to mark.
Janusz Michallik on USA: The best news from the Nigeria game was that Jozy Altidore scored both goals. Having not scored a goal for club or country since December, the timing is significant. His struggles for Sunderland have been well documented, but Klinsmann continued to show belief and afforded him every chance to break out of the scoring slump. Jozy has repaid that trust and one hopes that he will continue this against Ghana.
Gary Al-Smith on Ghana: In the last 10 games in which he started, Gyan got Ghana’s first goal 88% of the time. He's 5.60 to do so again here.
Janusz Michallik on USA: At 8.00, Jozy Altidore is a good bet to score the first goal and continue his short scoring streak. He often scores in bunches, and found the net in five consecutive matches in World Cup qualifying. The value for money to score at any time may be Michael Bradley at 9.50, as he is the most complete player on the USA team. Mix Diskerud has a tendency of changing games when he comes on as a substitute and I would fancy a small wager for him to score in the second half. He's 20.00 to score last.
Gary Al-Smith: Ghana 2-1 USA at 10.50
Janusz Michallik: With a slight bias, I'll be courageous and take the US to win 2-1 at 11.00. Keep in mind that Ghana eliminated USA in the last two World Cups and they'll want revenge!
Bet now on Ghana v USA!