Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do. NOT. Sleep. On. Ghana. Here's Why.

Yes I know that Ghana have been poor, have only scored 2 goals in 3 games thusfar, both of those being penalties. Yes I know that they are missing their best player Michael Essien, and even their 2 next best players, Appiah & Muntari, have not been at 100%. I know that team USA is riding a tsumani wave of soccer support that may very well be the tipping point of soccer relevance in the most powerful nation on Earth, and confidence for team USA will be stratospheric. Hell even Ghana's biggest strength might even be it's biggest weakness.

So why should you fear Ghana today? Well you know there were 6 African teams, and 5 of them are now out- Ghana are the only one left, and they didn't march into the knockout round but rather snuck in the side door. You also know that this World Cup is a massive massive point of pride not just for South Africa, but for all 53 nations of Africa. It may well be the biggest event in the short history of man that they have hosted, and they are all rooting for each other in a way that simply is not fathomable to someone from any other continent.

So today they are not just playing for the national pride of Ghana, which would surely be motivation enough for them. They are playing for an entire continent, for every African man, woman, and child- about a billion people. And just like the USMNT walked out on the field against Algeria knowing what was at stake and what they are playing for, and what they are still playing for today, for Ghana that feeling is about 5x more than for the USA.

Ghana playing for an entire continent. And they know it

So don't think they are going to come out and sleepwalk through and be poor. Given the stakes for both teams and their respective societies, the key to this game will be which one comes out and plays with a controlled passion and does not get overhyped and try too hard. I thought the US did exactly this Against Algeria, and perhaps that is why they missed all those chances. I think if they weren't so jacked up, they would have converted half of those sitters and been ahead 5-0 by the hour mark.

Technically, on paper, this game looks like a 3-1 win for USA. But they game isn't being played on paper. It is being played on a patch of grass in Africa, and the stakes for each set of players, teams, nations, and for Ghana an entire continent mean that the intangible of emotions, and who better controls their emotion by harnessing it rather than being overwhelmed by it, may well win. All of which would give Kirk Herbstreit a massive erection if he and Corso were making picks on ESPN today.

Mr. "intangibles", "emotion" & "who wants it more" himself

Predection? I can't call it, but a) I wouldn't be surprised if Ghana won and 2) I think that whoever wins this match will be on such a wave that they will defeat Uruguay and make it all the way to the semifinals 3) If Ghana beat us today, I will root for them to go on and win the whole damn thing, or at least to beat Uruguay to become the 1st African team to ever make it to a World Cup semifinal.

Enjoy the match- I don't know if it will be epic, but I guarantee it will be emotionally *intense*.


moinllieon said...

Not so fast my friend....


I think Ghana has the advantage in midfield and defense, US is ahead in attack and goalkeeping. It's alot more even than you'd expect. Due to the style of the two teams, I expect a very stuttering, disjointed affair very much unlike the Korea/Uruguay match we just saw.

It bothers me for the US that when asked about this match, Landon Donovan's first reaction was: if our defense can hold them we should be able to attack off of that. Just feels like the wrong tactical approach.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, the USMT almost never plays before before a real home crowd. USA fans are outnumbered at almost all venues in the States. They are used to hostility, they're ready for it.