Ghana, a nation of nearly 25 million people, is located in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. Though its GDP isn’t exactly huge, it is the second largest producer of cocoa in the entire world. Thus, I like to think of Ghana as sort of being like Willy Wonka’s factory. This is not a land of fat folks though (or Oompa Loompas). In fact, the country’s name means “Warrior King”, and its residents are a fit, proud pack.
Why shouldn’t they be? After all, they have established a strong representative democracy, and their soccer side has been producing decent results since 1958. However, their national team did not qualify for the World Cup until 2006. They played well in Germany and advanced out of the Group of Death with two wins (including a stoic 2-1 victory over the US). Brazil bested them in the second round though.
Since 2006, their team has only grown stronger. Last year, they became the first ever African nation to win the U-20 FIFA World Cup by toppling favorite Brazil in the Finals. Thus, they have many excellent young players who have valuable experience. One youngster they don’t feature though is a man who was born in Ghana but chose to play for the US (though it didn’t choose him for the Cup), Mr. Freddy Adu.
How has Ghana fared at this Cup? In their first game against Serbia, they won a hard-fought match. In their second game against Australia, they could only muster an ugly draw. In their final group stage match against Germany, Ghana lost and was kept out of the net. However, Australia’s surprise win over Serbia still secured Ghana a spot in the second round. Overall, I think they have been very impressive.
Who has starred for Ghana so far? Well, Kingson is the stingy keeper, Annan plays the role of midfield maestro, and Gyan is the mercurial playmaker up top. Some of the same players who beat the US in 2006 will be present on the pitch on Saturday, and they will be looking for history to repeat itself. We Yanks would like to write some new chapters of our soccer Cinderella story though.
In order to beat Ghana, Tim Howard will need to keep playing like a brick wall between the posts, the new look defense will need to display their top speed and stamina, the ever-evolving midfield will need to be quick on the counter-attack, and the goal-starved forwards will need to finally find the net. Most of all, we will need our big three on offense (LD, Deuce, and Bradley) to keep clicking like they have been.
I think we will beat Ghana (big shocker there, I know). Despite the refs’ best efforts to keep us from this game, we have reached the second round and we deserve to be taking the pitch with our national pride on the line. I know we have the skill to beat this side, and I bet we will do it. I predict the US will beat Ghana 1-0. Ghana may produce a lot of chocolate, but the US is the team with the Golden Ticket.