During the second installment of group G games it would have appeared that the stars had aligned so that all sorts of records would be equaled.
Just after the hour mark, in what for many have regarded as the game of the tournament so far, Asamoah Gyan joined Roger Milla as the joint top African footballer of all time with five goals to his name by putting Ghana into the lead against Germany.
Gyan looked to have handed ‘The Black Stars’ an unlikely victory in the Estadio Castalao until 70th minute substitute Mirolslav Klose scored his fifteenth World Cup goals and joined Brazil’s Ronaldo as the all time joint top scorer.
It stood to reason then that when Clint Dempsey finally put the USMNT ahead after chasing the game since Nani’s fifth minute opener, Klinsman’s team would hold out and record a second consecutive group stage win for the first time since 1930. But alas, after 94 fairly unspectacular minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo produced a sumptuous cross that substitute, Silvestre Varela, was only too happy to slam into the back of the net with a close range bullet header.
After being just a minute away from qualification into the last 16 the USMNT will now require a draw or better against Germany in order to guarantee their progression.
So how to solve a problem like Germany?
It’s important that the USMNT don’t concede so early this time so that they give Klinsman enough time to out-maneuver his former assistant, and Germany manager Joachim Lowe. Against Portugal, Klinsman quickly identified the right flank as USA’s most likely source of goals and could clearly be seen instructing his players to find Fabian Johnson so that he could get at the exposed Almeida.
Against Germany the USA’s best chance of success will most likely come from the opposite wing. Mezut Ozil is deserved of his attacking accolades, but any Arsenal fan will testify that his defensive game needs a lot of work.
USA will also be encouraged by the injury of Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng who limped off against Ghana with a hip injury.
Defensively the USMNT are looking reasonably solid but Cameron needs to stop making such basic errors if his team expect to get anywhere in the tournament.
Offensively, Klinsman must find a better way of utilizing Clint Dempsey’s excellent link up play; leave him too far advanced, or too isolated and they will surely be inviting a ceaseless wave of German pressure.
More than anything the USMNT need to be street-smart for once. The more time they waste, the less chance Germany will have to get into any kind of rhythm.