So this is it. Semifinals or bust. Ah, but first Ghana, a team that ruined the US in the 2006 World Cup.
In the 2006 World Cup, after finishing top of the CONCACAF qualification tournament, the U.S. was drawn into Group E along with the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ghana. Since three of the teams were ranked in the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings at the time, it was considered a Group of Death.
The United States opened its tournament with a 3–0 loss to the Czech Republic. The team then drew 1–1 against Italy (ending up being the only opponent the Italian side failed to defeat in the tournament). The United States was then knocked out of the tournament when beaten 2–1 by Ghana in its final group match.
This time things are different, right? The US is playing well as a team, which was really the talk most often while I was in England and Scotland earlier this week. Of course, for the most part the US and our chances were dismissed, however to a man almost everyone I spoke “football” with was complimentary of the way the US plays as a team.
But more important, what’s truly caught the soccer world’s attention here, is how the Americans have played: not necessarily the results of their play, but the character of it. Their mistakes have been large, but they’ve recovered from them. When they might have given up — down against England, down against Slovenia, all but down and out against Algeria — they persevered. While other teams have suffered personality rifts or even outright mutiny, there hasn’t been a whisper of discontent out of the U.S. camp. They’ve become the embodiment of optimism here, of the power of hope and belief.
So there is hope, because a true breakout win today against Ghana means the US can actually make a run as the US are on the “easy” side of the bracket. The winner of US/Ghana will play the winner of Uruguay/South Korea, both of which are winnable games for this US squad. A win in the quarterfinals would take the US to the semifinals to most likely pair up with Brazil or the Netherlands. And then? Well, I am getting ahead of myself. First Ghana.
I have a feeling of hope and optimism that the US will actually put together a full game today, and not get behind early on a defensive lapse. If the US can continue to attack and actually land something in the net I think we will advance 1-nil, nay, maybe 2-1.
This is it! Go USA! USA! Let’s cheer for our boys and the Red, White, and Blue!