Sports Features of 2014-06-09

Brazil 2014: Uncle Sam’s Bygone Era Nightmares

The gut reaction of a crestfallen American soccer fan, after the preliminary draw of the World Cup in the Brazilian state of Bahia was “ The World Cup couldn't have gone much worse for the US.” The Same thought have been nagging at many more Americans, including my jet-setting chum, Uncle Sam, after the United States was corralled by a cruel fate into the so called group of death together with Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

With the countdown to the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup already thinned out into single digits - Uncle Sam, seems to be rather apprehensive lately about his recurring bygone era nightmares. The silhouettes of a hulking African warrior king with a huge Pan-African tricolour, draped over his shoulders- waylaying and jousting a diminutive medieval knight errant, donning a miniature old glory (the American flag) around his midriff, has become the leitmotif of his nightmares. The conclusion Uncle Sam quickly draws from his nightly visions is that “ the warrior king’s outsize national colours is a likely victory sign for the Black Stars and a premonition of gloom for the Stars and Stripes.” Consequently, his upbeat mood have been clouded by this ominous revelation. And by some Strange coincidence, the same can be said of his compatriots who sees Ghana as their major bugbear at the World Cup finals. Dreading a third straight defeat, the Americans can’t help but remain cautiously optimistic about squaring up for another battle with the unpredictable Ghanaian side in Brazil.

Honestly, Ghana’s threat to the US is palpable considering the fact that they defeated the US at the last two World Cups. On record the US also lost to Ghana in the Presidents cup and also in the Merdeka tournament all in ’83. As a result the coach of the United States Men’s National Soccer Team, USMNT, Jurgen Klinsmann and his charges are leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to stem the tide of the inglorious outings against their bogey team, the Black Stars of Ghana.

For the United States to make any headway in the group of death, they must first get past Ghana without any snag in their opening game. Jeff Agoos, a former defender of the Yanks thinks Ghana is easy prey for the USA. “ Ghana should be the sole focus of the US during their preparation, because they give the Americans their best opportunity to get a win in the prestage.” Jurgen Klinsmann coach of Team USA couldn’t agree with Jeff more, when he also rapped out this caution. “ For us, we can’t take it one at a time. We’ve got to win the first game no matter what, right away.”

Obviously, Klinsmann’s opposite number Kwesi Appiah, coach of the Black Stars is also praying against any false start in their opening game with the USMNT. He also appears to be very much in luck to have drawn the US in his first game at the mundial. As a matter of fact Kwesi Appiah could have run into a whole new ball game playing Germany or Portugal first in group play. So, the US comes up as a comfortable opponent to cross off in the group of death.

Fortunately, coach Appiah’s expatriate predecessors have made mincemeat of the Yanks in the last two tournaments, so he has been spared the anxiety of being in two minds about the possibility of winning against the Stars and Stripes. Without any hesitation the facts clearly shows that coach Appiah, is on the cusp of making history for himself and country, but also conscious of the immense task of redeeming the image of indigenous coaches at the biggest football event in the world. So whiles coach Appiah's mission is to maintain Ghana’s hegemony over the US once more in the world of football, Jurgen Klinsmann will be racking his mind to re-enact one of the deadliest revenge on Ghana in the splendid Arena das Dunas on the coastal city of Natal.

According to the USMNT helmsman the match against the Black Stars is the Yanks’ final. “ We start with a final. ” He maintained. A rather well-turned pronouncement by the German, which also applies to Ghana, because a win against the Yanks will help boost the Stars morale against the other two well–oiled opponents: Germany and Portugal. But one thing Klinsmann fails to cotton on to is that whenever the Yanks gorge rises against the Black Stars at a full-dress event like the World Cup, the Black Stars tend to discover their mojo.

America is a country with a global clout in almost every aspect of human activity, but in the world of football, Ghana has become a force to reckon with, at least to the United States, thanks to the shifting sands of modern football. That any of the five African participants in the World Cup is capable of causing an upset is not in doubt. But Ghana leads the African challenge for very obvious reasons-they were the nearly men in the last tournament, when a Luis Suarez hand ball prevented them from a record semi-final birth on African soil. So when the Black Stars finally jets into Brazil they have an unfinished-job to complete. That is making it to the last four or even better faraway from home soil. This starts with a climactic cliff-hanger between the US and Ghana. In fact the match will mimic warfare inside the Arena das Dunas built to seat almost 45,000 people, because a third defeat to Ghana will be an absolute rout to the US, whiles Ghana finally gets all the backslapping for cutting the US down to size on merit and not by sheer happenstance.

The Black Stars boasts a crop of well motivated youthful sheen with redoubled enthusiasm. They are talented, agile and athletic and will be no easy foe for the Yanks as usual. Coach Appiah, believes Ghana already has a psychological edge over the US as a result of the last two wins. Though he is not far from being right, there is an urgent need for him to inject some more pep into his charges to make them rise to their full height once the tournament kicks off. On the other hand the Stars and Stripes are a typical American side with the staying power to slug it out to the final buzzer. The Americans are generally quick off their marks because they are able to roll the ball from their own half into the opponents half in just ten seconds according to records. They are aggressive in their attacking runs and also purposeful to boot. To be able to contain the USMNT the Black Stars need to be really on the ball and play down to the wire. The American midfield spark plug, Michael Bradley must be defused to prevent him from getting his crosses upfront. Incursions must be made into the opponents goal area and constant attacks launched at the Yanks rather limp backline. Ghana also has an ace in the hole with their on song skipper, Asamoah Gyan and the virtuosic Andre Ayew. The prodigious duo brings to their numerous fans a strong sense of déjà vu ahead of the make or break opener with the US. In the 2010 finals Gyan latched onto an on spec volley homing in on him from Ayew far behind him to score an inexpressible game winning goal against the Americans at the round of 16, just three minutes into extra time. The Yanks 2010 World Cup dream came to grief and they have since lived in hope to revenge their defeat to the Black Stars. Anyway the name of the dude spooked by his recurring nightmares strangely ties-in with the moniker “Uncle Sam”: also a common national personification for America. We live and learn! If this is anything to go by then the Yanks revenge seems unlikely if Uncle Sam’s nightly visions remains the same. If you ask me, the warrior king’s outsize tricolour simply seems to create a mental picture of Asamoah Gyan doing the victory lap in the Arena Das Dunas, after scoring another absolute match winning corker against the Stars and Stripes come June, 16.

Drawing from the foregoing, it therefore goes without saying that Ghana is well in the frame to achieve a historic World Cup three-peat against the United States in the town of the dunes, Natal.

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