World Cup 2014: Ghana 1-2 United States

World Cup 2014: Ghana 1-2 United States

Considering neither team have previously made it past the quarter-finals, the Group G clash between Ghana and the United States was a surprisingly appealing match-up. Both teams line up in what are rough variations of 4-4-2s, which tend to make for good open games, and focus on different areas as the US pack the middle and Ghana drive down the wings

What exactly the United States’ starting formation was is difficult to tell but in those opening 30 seconds it does appear to be their standard 4-4-2 diamond, while Kwesi Appiah’s choice of a 4-2-3-1 for Ghana was more obvious.

Clint Dempsey’s goal 32 seconds into the game threw a spanner into the works though. The midfield sitting back a little dragged Sulley Muntari and Muhamed Rabiu up the pitch, opening huge gaps between the lines for Dempsey to drop into, for which he immediately punished them. With the lead and Ghana breaking quickly a few times in the opening minutes, Jurgen Klinsmann changed to a flat 4-4-2 and defended deeper. Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman are poor technically, Alejandro Bedoya continuously made poor decisions and Michael Bradley had a poor game – these problems would have been easier to manage if they outnumbered Ghana in the middle, but the change of shape meant they were unable to keep hold of the ball.

Unable to mount many attacks of their own, the US instead focussed on defending the waves and waves of Ghana attacks. Ghana were targeting natural winger DaMarcus Beasley at left-back in particular, with both Andre and Jordan Ayew drifting across to join Christian Atsu on the right and Daniel Opare supporting from full-back. Cross after cross was swung into the box and easily dealt with by the American defence, which arguably made them look better than they were.

A lot of the talk about Klinsmann’s tenure as the American coach has been about organisation, which is arguably what the team needs, but he doesn’t usually provide this. Both his Germany and Bayern Munich teams were primarily attacking and he’s a terrible defensive organiser. A glaring issue was the massive gaps constantly appearing between the American centre-backs and full-backs, as seen in Ghana’s equaliser. The goal came from one of the few times Ghana looked to get the ball down and move the backline around. Had they done this rather than just swinging in cross after cross, they could have got back into the game much earlier.

Gap between centre-backs and full-backs in American defence

Credit must go to the US for the way reacted to losing their lead. Having spent the entirety of the game defending their penalty area, it must have been difficult to turn around that mentality and they were rewarded with a goal from a set-piece. Still, Germany and Portugal should be looking at both teams as easy prey. Ghana had no ideas and made the United States’ look much stronger than it actually was. However, it must work in the United States’ favour that they play Germany last, when they should have already sealed qualification.

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