Football Station


Strike Anywhere – Ghana v. Uruguay Preview

GHANA – URUGUAY

“Strike Anywhere”

Preview

July 2nd, 2010

Soccer City, South Africa

Seemingly one of the more underwhelming Quarterfinals, the Ghana – Uruguay game has as much potential excitement etched

Gyan will need to be on point to get Ghana through to the Semi's.

into it as any of the other ties.  Both sides overcame the odds to make it here, advanced out of very tough groups and are not to be underestimated, as so many have and paid for it.  Just like every Quarterfinal, a clear cut winner is anything but certain, and this will be a game of inches.  The winner will be the one who takes advantage of their chances in front of goal and defends as a unit.

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The only remaining African team will be hoping to have the crowd behind them as they take on 1 of 4 South American teams at Soccer City on Saturday.  It must be bittersweet for Michael Essien to have to watch this game from the sidelines, but he will be bursting with pride at his countrymen’s efforts so far.  Plus, he will probably still be a member of the 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil and he will be doing everything possible to make sure he’s fit for it.

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The Ghanaians have an injury scare with star striker Asamoah Gyan, whose stunning winner against the United States saw them to the Quarterfinals, picked up an ankle injury.  Despite this, he is still expected to play, and the Elephants will be desperate for him to be fit.  His goal against the Yanks in the first knockout round will have him brimming with confidence and he will be giving the Uruguayan back line some trying moments.  However the South Americans are prepared for that threat with Martín Cáceres (Barcelona) and Captain Diego Lugano (Fenerbahçe) anchoring the back four.

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With a powerful midfield, Ghana will be looking to flex the muscle of Kevin Prince-Boateng, Andre Ayew and Anthony Annan.  Sulley Muntari might be called into action to try and throw a wrench in the gears of the Uruguayan midfield’s attacking moves. What Ghana forces teams to do with their busy midfield of 5 players, is play the long ball over the top to try and cut out the African’s middle men.  The problem is that the Ghanaian team is tailor made for such tactics as we saw in the United States game and they are content to out muscle the opposing strikers, let their midfield claim possession and knock the ball around for a few minutes.  The problem with this game is that they are facing two red hot strikers in Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan.

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Uruguay didn’t surprise too many by advancing from their tough group, so don’t expect them to roll over and die for a very talented

Diego Forlan: Too hot for Group A. And too hot for his jersey apparently.

and young African squad.  The South Americans’ biggest asset is their strike force of Suarez and Forlan, and they will be looking to utilize that as much as possible, especially on their right side of the field where Hans Sarpei (the oldest member of an incredibly young squad) will be playing.  The 34 year old is capable but looks weary towards the end of games and will be prime for punishment when the game gets down to the grind.  If Ghana are ahead at 80 minutes, expect the South Americans to channel their attacking drive towards Sarpei, or at least until Milovan Rajevac, the Serbian manager, replaces him which he is wont to do.

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If Uruguay tries to play how Ghana want them to, then expect the African side to advance to an unprecedented first ever Semifinal appearance.  However, coach Óscar Tabárez has been around the block a few times and will be wary of how Ghana intend to play this game.  Edinson Cavani and Alvaro Pereira hold down the midfield with Diego Perez and won’t be susceptible as the Americans in midfield, especially if Tabárez opts to play the gritty Nicolás Lodeiro alongside them.  He’s small but he’s physical, which could be exactly what they need to overcome the hustle and bustle of the Ghana midfield.  If both he and Muntari play, it will be an interesting match and not a question of who will win the physical battle but who will receive a red card first?

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Ghana has allowed a goal in every one of their games except their opener, whereas Uruguay has only conceded a single goal and shut out all of Group A.

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Both sides can win this game and both know it full well.  Uruguay has more experience, but Ghana has more energy and the homefield backing.  The midfield will toil, but this game will be made in the striking department.  You only get a few clear chances a game, and the winner will be the one who can capitalize on theirs.

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Prediction

Uruguay  1 – 0  Ghana – though, extra time is not out of the question.

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Sub Prediction

Diego Forlan will at some point be shirtless.

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Deja Vu
The United States Mens National Team fell 2-1 to Ghana for the second time in as many World Cups, only this time around, they broke our hearts in extra time.  This time, they couldn’t blame the referee.  But this time can only blame one man, Coach Bob Bradley.
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Yep, I said it.  Just what the hell was he thinking starting Ricardo Clark?  If any of you read the site regularly (unlikely, but hey, I’m an optimist) you know that I downright despise Ricardo Clark.  Now can you see why?  When I saw his name on the team sheet, I turned to my fellow Americans and said, “Clark could lose us this game.”  His attempt to step past Anthony Annan, resulted in Kevin Prince-Boatengs goal from outside the area.  Granted, Tim Howard was poorly positioned, but he shouldn’t have been put in that position to begin with.

Gyan celebrates his fantastic strike in extra time.

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Four years of Football Fandom is out the window, because Bob Bradley tried to tamper with the winning formula.  Why?  What would compel you to change the side that beat Algeria, that tied Slovenia, that could have beat Ghana?  In the only game Edu and Bradley started next to each other, the Yanks not only didn’t allow an early goal, they kept a clean sheet!  The Robbie Findley inclusion didn’t flip my lid either, but experimenting up front is much different than experimenting in the middle, especially when we were finally clicking.  Bradley’s only saving grace was his humility.  He had the guts to say, “Ok, I was wrong” and put Edu into the game.  Immediately, the United States started clicking.
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Another thing, why the long ball tactics?  I thought after the first 30 tries at trying to play a long ball in, we would give up and try to outpass them.  Nope.  Just keep thumpin’ it in there.  Eventually, one of their center backs will just let us walk on in.  We clearly showed that when we built up from the back, we had some beautiful passing movements – notably at the beginning of the second half.  We flowed seamlessly into the Ghanaian third and really put them under pressure.  And I know they were tired.  Who wouldn’t be? Honestly.  I cannot fault them in the slightest for being tired.  But you know who I can?  Bob Bradley.  If he hadn’t started Clark, we wouldn’t have been down a goal and a substitution.  Ghana used their substitutions late and they ran us out of it eventually.  What if we could have put Holden in on the wing?  Onyewu in for the tired Bornstein?  It just hurts how much sense it makes and how little Bradley had with this game.
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If we had started the game with Maurice Edu in the middle and got shalacked, fine.  I’ll take that.  It’s just such a bitter pill to go out to the same team that ousted the United States in an identical score line 4 years ago, when we had such a great chance to win.  They didn’t even have Michael Essien and bossed the midfield.

A dejected United States fan's eyes say it all.

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The first half of the game was absolutely abysmal from the United States, and the biggest game changing substitution had to be Benny Feilhaber.  He’s quick, clever and a concise passer.  Almost immediately, he brought an edge to the game that was previously absent as he nearly got on the score sheet.  You only get a few chances like that a game, and, time and time again, you have to finish them.
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Parting shot, the Ghanaians really didn’t show great gamesmanship in their winner here just like they didn’t in 2006.  They flopped like fish out of water and dramatically called for a stretcher every time there was contact.  Look at Clint Dempsey!  He gets treated like he’s in The Octagon every time he’s on the field.  What does he do?  He spits out blood and goes for theirs.
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Be a man.  Get up, stand up, stay up.
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It’s hard to blame one man for the loss, so I’ll blame two.  Bob Bradley and Ricardo Clark…but mostly Bob.  He could have prevented the whole thing in thefirst place.  Clark not only shouldn’t be starting, he should not be on the roster.  Who should? Maybe Freddy Adu.
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There are a lot more things I would like to say.  But I won’t.  Because, if you’ve read this far, you can read between the lines too.  This hurts.  A lot.  My emotional output before, during and after the game could power a small country.
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Bob Bradley just cost me 4 years of football fandom.  Such is life.
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Until next time...



Sick Ward…

As it stands, there has already been as many as 5 world class injuries for South Africa.  What do these mean for their respective teams?  Managers and teams alike make names for themselves with how well they cope without their talismanic players.  It is time to take a walk through the sick ward.

1.  Michael Ballack – The iconic midfielder injured his ankle in the FA Cup Final against Portsmouth and saw his last World Cup dream dashed.  What do the Germans have in reserve?  Suprisingly, not as much as they typically do.  Squad depth could be a problem for them in South Africa, especially if they pick up any other serious injuries to key players.  In replacing Ballack there is Toni Kroos, the Werder Bremen attacking midfielder, or maybe the largely untested Stuttgart central midfielder Sami Kheidra.  Either way, it will be interesting to see what the Germans will come up with.  Will this stop them from advancing into the later stages?  Not a chance, they still ooze talent and are always a threat.

South Africa will be without one of the continent's greatest talents in decades

2. Michael Essien – Unlike Ballack, Michael Essien is much more grave injury to his national team.  The Black Stars revolve around the former African Player of the Year, and will struggle to find somebody to fill his overly sized boots.  Sulley Muntari may be brought in from the left to try and steady the ship in the middle of the park to partner Stephen Appiah.  Another option could be young Anthony Annan of FC Copenhagen who could be a legitimate player on the big stage, but only time will tell.  Unlike Ballack again, however, Essien most likely has another World Cup in him.

3. Rio Ferdinand – Woe is England.  Just when everybody thought they were taking a flawless squad to South Africa, Ferdinand

The longtime trusted stopper will have to watch from home.

loses his last chance a World Cup.  Tragic for such a decorated player and seasoned veteran.  Now the question becomes, who will partner John Terry?  Long absent Jamie Carragher?  Injury stricken Ledley King?  Or the recently called up Michael Dawson?  All are capable players but all will be hard pressed to emulate the form of Rio Ferdinand.  Carragher is probably the most experienced, but may be a step behind quicker players in South Africa.  Regardless, England still has plenty of quality all over the pitch and should be able to see their way easily out of their group and past the first round or two of the knockout stages.

4. Didier Drogba – What a shame for the Ivory Coast.  The Elephants are bringing one of the strongest African squads ever to a World Cup and are now without their savior.  Drogba is, without a doubt, one of the top striking talents in the world.  He is big, physical, and deadly.  Still, the Ivory Coast will be able to find some quality backup.  Left in the striking department is Salomon Kalou, Aruna Dindane, and Gervinho.  To say the least, they won’t be toothless, however they’ll be missing their fangs without “Drog”.  Advancing out of the group a possibility?  You bet.  Is it going to be easy?  Not a chance.