The United States has a formula for advancing to the second round at the World Cup: get at least a point from the first game against Ghana on Monday.
“It’s pretty much like a knockout game,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann told fans at a send-off pep rally last month in New York’s Times Square, referring to Monday’s Group G match against Ghana in Brazil.
The Americans have never advanced from the group stage after failing to get at least a point in their opener. They reached the knockout phase after winning their first games in 1930 and 2002, and following draws in 1994 and 2010.
“Statistically, the chances of advancing go way up now if you’re able to get a point or three from the first game,” midfielder Michael Bradley said.
“If we can get the win, then we can refocus and go for (next opponent) Portugal,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “There’s no sense in looking beyond the first game. It’s important, I think, that we can get three points in the bag.”
Ghana knocked the Americans out of the last two World Cups with 2-1 victories, beating the Americans in group play in the 2006 tournament and in extra time during the round of 16 four years ago.
Only four Americans who appeared in the 2010 match are likely to start: Howard, Bradley and forwards Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. Based on their starting lineup in Monday’s 4-0 exhibition win over South Korea, Ghana could return defender Jonathan Mensah, midfielders Kwadwo Asamoah and Andre Ayew, and forwards Kevin-Prince Boateng and Gyan.
“It’s a team full of individual talent with players, certain players that can hurt you in a split second if you’re not alert, if you’re not awake,” Klinsmann said.
Mexico’s 1-0 win over Cameroon in Natal on Friday was played in a downpour, and it rained again on Saturday.
The forecast called for more heavy rain Sunday and clearing Monday with the possibility of occasional showers.
“For us everything is ideal,” Klinsmann said. “Whatever the temperature is, whatever the conditions are – rain, no rain, hot, humid, whatever – we are prepared.”
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