Match Preview Ghana's "Miracle" Win Puts Fright into US

Ghana's shock World Cup upset of the Czech Republic has put a bit of a fright into the US team. That's music to the ears of the Africans' 60-year-old coach, who wants the Americans to suffer Thursday.


Ghana will give the US team a run for their money.
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Ghana will give the US team a run for their money.

Ghana, which stunned the second-ranked Czech Republic 2-0 after losing to Italy, would reach the round of 16 with a victory on Wednesday in a Group E match. The US team comes off a fiesty 1-1 draw with Italy and must win for any hope to advance.

"Ghana was miraculous in the way they turned their game around. That in itself is frightening," US coach Bruce Arena said. "They have momentum and confidence."

Something else the Black Stars boast is quickness. Sparked by dynamic Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien and captain Stephen Appiah, World Cup debutante Ghana could send the 2002 quarter-finalist squad flying home. "Hopefully we can deal with their team speed. That's my biggest concern," Arena said. "One thing we don't want to do is have a foot race with Ghana for 90 minutes. If we do, we're going to lose a lot of those races."

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic, a Serbian who calls this the most important match of his life, said Arena is right to be concerned. "They have to worry. The USA will suffer because we are strong and we are not afraid of anyone," Dujkovic said. "Ghana is young and tough. We won't play for a draw. We always play offensive football and we play to win."

That's especially true when inspired to win for all of Africa over a US team that, for all its land's riches and advantages, has struggled on soccer's biggest stage. "It would be fantastic for us," Ghana's Derek Boateng said. "We're looking forward to that because it's very important for us and the whole country, the whole of Africa."

Should upstart Ghana finish second in Group E, reigning champion Brazil is the likely foe in the round of 16. "We are ready to play anyone. We're not afraid to meet the Brazilians," said Essien. "First we have to deal with the USA. They play good football and they will be tough."

"Every one of our players would give their lives for a win over Brazil," Dujkovic said. "We're certainly not going out there to play in a half-hearted way."

The Americans, who have managed only a single shot on goal in two matches, will rely on teamwork to contain Essien, a masterful defense organizer who can quickly spark a scoring threat with a long ball. "Probably the only thing that is going to neutralize him is us keeping the ball. He's equally good offensively and defensively," US forward Brian McBride said.

"No matter how good a player Essien is, if we put one person on him at a time it's going to affect him. We need to work on him as a team, put a lot of guys on him and work together."

Due to yellow card suspensions, Ghana will be without their scorers from the Czech match, Sulley Muntari and striker Asamoah Gyan, whose second booking of the Cup came for taking a penalty without referee consent.

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