It ended with the same score as before.
As in 2006, and as in 2010.
‘Two goals to one’, the scoreboard read.
Except this time, the status quo had been reversed.
America rejoiced, while Ghana wailed.
Mistakes, and more mistakes…
It’s almost midnight in Ghana as I write and take in the post-match scenes on TV. The players on either side aren’t done yet swapping shirts on the Estadio das Dunas turf, masking pent-up emotions – rapturous joy for the US, anguish for the Africans – they would only release fully once within the confines of their respective dressing rooms and team buses.
To their credit, the USMNT struck when their opponents were at their most vulnerable; barely a minute after kick-off when Ghana hadn’t even found their bearings, and right at the death when the four-time African champions were still reeling from the ecstasy of a late equaliser.
Both goals, Clint Dempsey’s opener and John Brooks’ winner, were down to deficient marking from a seemingly distracted Ghanaian rearguard. Hardly anything else.
John Boye merely stepping aside to grant Dempsey a triumphant entry into Ghana’s penalty area that made it 1-0 was just scandalous, while Jonathan Mensah’s error that led to the freak corner-kick from which substitute Brooks thumped in unmarked was only slightly less embarrassing.
It was quite poignant to observe that the scorer of the latter, in celebration, seemed almost as disbelieving of the fact that he had been permitted so much space as of the reality which might have dawned on him that, almost single-handedly, he had exorcised his nation’s bogey side for good and provided the USA a huge boost in what is now set to be a three-way battle for Group G’s best runners-up finish.
(Who, after watching Germany brush Portugal aside earlier in the day, doesn’t believe Die Mannschaft have already picked first place?)
Dominate as they did, Ghana forgot the basics that has made their style so enthralling. Persistent yet repeatedly futile high balls, coupled with some horrible deliveries particularly from full-back Daniel Opare, failed to help their cause, while over-utilisation of the right flank – manned by Opare and the enterprising Christian Atsu – made their play a bit too predictable.
In the end Ghana lost, and perhaps deservedly so. Forget the final statistics regarding possession, passes completed, shots taken etc, that favoured the Black Stars; Ghana got it wrong where the USA ticked the right boxes. All hope, of course, isn’t lost yet.
Still, for Ghana to hold its own against a ruthless German unit and the wounded Portuguese in the remaining group games, Kwesi Appiah would need to go back to the drawing board.
Heck; he should even consider getting a new drawing board, or perhaps borrow simply one from the tactically superior Jurgen Klinsmann if the 49-year-old indeed has some to spare.
America redeemed and relieved
They say you only drown for good after you fail to remain afloat when you re-surface a third time.
Twice the USA, under Bruce Arena and later Bob Bradley, were forced under by Ghana. This time, though, they have proved resilient and popped up safe, grinning at their one-time oppressors, and doffing Uncle Sam’s colourful top hat in gleeful mockery.
Skipper Dempsey, who certainly led by example, noted prior to the match that his team were ‘due a little bit of luck’ and ‘due a win against them [Ghana].’ Both elements had eluded them on the two previous occasions. Not anymore.