So the South Korea-Uruguay match will technically be first, but the game everyone is talking about is USA-Ghana.
2:30 PM- USA (1st in Group C) vs. Ghana (2nd in Group D)
The US will take the field tomorrow to take a big step toward respectability. Make no mistake about it, the US is a better team than Ghana, but winning this match is far from a sure thing. Let’s talk about a few things aside from the match.
The USA was fantastic when it came to creating chances against Algeria. For the first time all tournament, the USA was clearly the better team for 90 minutes, and it showed. They were constantly on the attack, creating chances like mad, and capped it all off with a goal that will go down in history as one of the most important goals to date.
That being said, the finishing has GOT to be better. Jozy missed a sitter, Dempsey hit the post, Buddle headed straight at the keeper, and so on. The chances they created were brilliant and the finishing was horrendous. This is extremely important if the USA wants to make any kind of run.
Perhaps it is looking a bit down the road, but the US also has a very favorable path to the Semifinals should they beat Ghana. There is no world power waiting for them in the quarters and they are highest ranked team in this quadrant. Good things, but far from helpful at this moment.
Also important was that the US defense looked extremely solid for most of the Algeria match. They did give up the one chance where the woodwork bailed them out, but they did not look nearly as shaky as they did in previous matches. A lot of credit goes to Jay DeMerit for a truly outstanding performance, but as always, Tim Howard was excellent as well. If the US is to beat Ghana, the defense will have to avoid shooting Howard in the foot by allowing Ghana open looks at the net. However, Ghana did very well in creating chances against Germany and it looks like they will be able to create some against the US too. The key will be limiting the good looks and contesting the rest of them. It is really not so different from basketball in that respect. Howard needs to be big for the US, but even more, the back 4 needs to be good so Howard doesn’t need to be otherworldly. I think that Ghana gets at least one goal, so it will be on the US to do get at least one.
Now, Ghana created a lot of chances against Germany, but they also gave up a lot of looks to Germany as well. This is not Algeria, who likes to sit way back and try to counter. Ghana will give up some chances and it is just up to the US to put it in the back of the net. That is why it will be so important for the USA to finish. There will be chances for both sides, but the US needs to finish theirs to pressure Ghana instead of the other way around.
Now, it is pick time. On the bright side, there is no Nadir Belhadj to occupy Landon Donovan this time so he should be more active throughout the game. In fact, there are no really star defenders, so the US will have quality chances if they play like they did against Algeria. Of course, that means Ghana will be attacking with the likes of Asamoah Gyan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Muntari and Appiah. They are by no means a team that should be taken lightly, and the US has its hands full.
I do not think 90 minutes is enough for these teams. I think we see our first extra time match of the tournament and the magic continues for the United States. But this time, it will not be Donovan with the goal. It is Clint Dempsey’s turn to play the hero off a Landon Donovan ball in extra time to give the US boatloads of momentum heading into the quarterfinals.
USA 3-2 Ghana in 120 minutes
10:00 AM- Uruguay (1st in Group A) vs South Korea (2nd in Group B)
I have been rolling with Uruguay since Day One and they have rewarded me with some great football. I am a little afraid of the fact that they have not been tested yet, but I love their defending mixed with Suarez and Forlan. We all thought they were tested against France, but about halfway through the match, France gave up and never came back so we have no way of knowing if they have been tested or not. Regardless, they did not concede a goal (one of two teams not to) and did so in a very attack-minded group, which is impressive.
However, South Korea has been impressive too. They have fought everyone with as much as they have and the only man they were unable to slow down was Lionel Messi, and few will blame them for that. They have battled and battled and really earned their spot in the final 16, and for that no one can write them off. I could see this headed toward penalties if South Korea decides to sit back and defend, but I have got to go with the team I have been picking to surprise since the beginning.
Uruguay 2-0 South Korea
MY KNOCKOUT PICKS
First, a commentary about the US side of the draw. Hallelujah. We have a very manageable path to the Semis and that is more than we could have imagined going into this World Cup. The other side of the draw, however, England has Spain, Germany, Argentina, Mexico and a whole lot of trouble for the overhyped English.
Uruguay over Mexico————~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~———————-Argentina over Mexico
———————————-|Uruguay over USA~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|Argentina over Germany——————
USA over Ghana——————~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~———————-Germany over England
Netherlands over Slovakia——~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~————————-Japan over Paraguay
———————————–|Brazil over Netherlands~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|Spain over Japan—————————
Brazil over Chile—————–~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~————————Spain over Portugal
Brazil over Uruguay
Argentina over Spain
Brazil over Argentina
I am not without concern about Brazil, but I think that ultimately they come through in an all-South American final.