Close Encounter of the Ghanaian Kind

Landon Donovan did more than score a goal which sent the USA through to the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup.

Not only was it huge in terms of what it could do for the game here (the chapter’s not closed on that one), but it also effectively signed England’s death warrant in this particular  tournament.

As much as the British media and players tried to hide their disappointment in failing to qualify as Group C winners – and thus earn Capello’s boys an arguably easier path towards the final — the fact is they now have to beat a young and improving German team, and then possibly knock out Maradona’s Argentina. Get past those two hurdles and Spain could await in the semifinals.

Looking forward to Saturday, the oddsmakers have the Unites States as very slight favorites to beat Ghana for a place in the quarterfinals. While many will cite Ghana’s 3-2 victory against the USA at the 2006 World Cup, there are a couple of differences which swing the advantage in America’s favor.

Firstly, the US squad is stronger, led by a better coach. Secondly, Ghana, while dangerous, does not seem to have made much progress in that time, mirroring the notable stunted development in other African nations at this World Cup. Michael Essein’s absence will be especially felt in this game.

In saying that, I still expect a very close encounter: the African factor should not be underestimated. Remember, at least three games on average in the knockout stages go to penalty kicks. Just saying so you’re prepared!

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