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USA vs. Ghana: Africa best turn up the heat on US World Cup soccer

Not since the USA made it to the semifinals of the inaugural World Cup in 1930 has it had such a clear chance to return. But in Ghana, the US faces a team with organization and collective grit.

By Staff writer / June 26, 2010

US national soccer team players jog during a training session in Mogwase, South Africa Friday. The US team plays their Round of 16 World Cup match against Ghana Saturday.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

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Yanks may have difficulty not salivating before Saturday’s USA vs. Ghana World Cup match.

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Not since the USA made it to the semifinals of the inaugural World Cup in 1930 has it had such a clear chance to return.

Standing between the USA and what would inarguably be the greatest accomplishment in the nation’s soccer history are Ghana and then the winner of Saturday morning’s Uruguay vs. South Korea.

Each of those teams can surely beat the United States. Yet none of them, it must be noted, is named Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Germany, England, or the Netherlands.

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In many ways, they are essentially more of the same, as though the USA were simply turning up their degree of difficulty like a volume dial, one notch at a time.

As Algeria presented many of the same challenges as Slovenia (only more so), Ghana will be a sort of Algeria 2.0. All those things at which Algeria excelled – athleticism, strength, speed, defensive discipline – Ghana does even better.

Then, most likely waiting in the wings will be Uruguay, perhaps this tournament’s king of the whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts soccer – a team on the edge of elite yet so far still pressing its nose against the shop window of soccer greatness.

Ghana, like the USA, remains a step below that but hopeful that Saturday’s game can vault it into a new soccer sphere. The most succinct way to summarize the Black Stars would be this: 1-0. They don’t score much, and they aren’t scored upon much.

They resemble nothing so much as 11 men clenched into an iron fist. In a World Cup that has seen the other top African sides drop out through a lack of organization and collective grit, Ghana has advanced precisely because it has those qualities in abundance.

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