Soccer News of Wednesday, 21 June 2006
Everything at stake for US and Ghana
In what is probably the most complicated group in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, the USA and Ghana will face off at 16:00 (CET) on Thursday knowing that their fates may also depend on the results of the Italy-Czech Republic game, which will be played at the same time.
The United States have one point after stumbling to a 3-0 loss to the Czechs but then recovering for a 1-1 draw with Italy in a match that saw three players sent off, two of them American. Ghana, meanwhile, also struggled in their opener, falling 2-0 to Italy, but then recovered to humble the high-flying Czechs 2-0. The results leave everybody alive and nobody assured a place in the Round of 16. Ghana are tied with the Czechs on three points, with Italy top with four and the US bottom.
The story so far
With the situation the way it is, Ghana would advance with a win regardless of the result between Italy and Czech Republic. A draw in both matches would mean Italy and the Czech Republic going through, with the Czechs finishing above Ghana thanks to their plus-one goal difference. If Italy win and Ghana draw, Italy and Ghana are through.
The US will also be hoping for an Italian victory, as the likeliest advancement scenario has them and Italy both winning. If Italy and the Czech Republic draw, the US would have to win by an extremely wide margin to edge out the Czechs on goal difference, with the Americans currently at minus-three.
As for the game itself, both the US and Ghana will be missing key players due to suspensions. Ghana will be without their two goalscorers from their win over the Czechs, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan, while the Americans will be without veteran centre-back Eddie Pope and defensive midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, starters from each of the their first two matches who were sent off against Italy.
These teams have played once before, a friendly on 15 September 1983, which Ghana won 1-0.
The duel: Claudio Reyna v Michael Essien
These two midfield leaders both play professionally in the English Premiership, Reyna at Manchester City and Essien at league champions Chelsea. Though Essien is unquestionably the more athletic of the two, Reyna has the edge when it comes to experience, this being his third FIFA World Cup. Each player has been at the centre of virtually everything good to come from his team their match-up could prove decisive. The question will be, can Reyna's craftiness and vision make up for Essien's superior speed and strength?