Ghana's Rajevac tweaks lineup to win the midfield battle against U.S.
There is something almost noble about
Given the thanklessness of the job he has done over the past two years, it was appropriate his goal should come from just the sort of isolated, seemingly hopeless position in which he has so regularly operated.
His gift for reading a game and his decisiveness in reacting are laudable, and have had an impact in each of the U.S. team's last three games, but the question has to be raised of why so many games end up having to be wrenched in the U.S.' favor in the first place. Against Ghana, the U.S. began with the usual 4-4-2, with
This was a changed Ghana. In this tournament they had operated with five midfielders operating deep, only breaking forward occasionally, which is why Gyan has so often been isolated. Here, though, the introduction of
The overall result was that, with
With players breaking from midfield with far greater regularity than they had at any point during the group stage, Ghana were superb for half an hour, passing the ball crisply and making the U.S. look sluggish. This was brilliant, coherent soccer, and it seemed for a while that the U.S. might never get into the game. The only downside from Ghana's point of view was that, not for the first time, possession didn't lead to chances. Aside from the goal, Ghana had only a couple of half chances, and given the way the U.S.' stamina had dragged them through the games against Slovenia and Algeria, a one-goal lead was never likely to be enough.
The change came when Clark, having been booked for a foul on Boateng was withdrawn for
The U.S.' penalty followed an extended spell of pressure, such that an equalizer had begun to seem inevitable. Dempsey, in his central role, beat John Mensah, ran on and was clearly chopped down by
Ghana showed flickers of a rally in the final 20 minutes, but it was after
From then on, it was a case of fairly desperate defense. Ghana simply dropped men behind the ball, spoiled, threw bodies in the way and through a mixture of discipline and desire, held the U.S. out. It is easy to criticize and say the only way Ghana could possibly have scored in the final period was the way it did, with a long ball, but it worked. Rajevac played the percentages and they came down in his favor. Besides, Ghana's first half hour was good enough that it deserved its luck. It will be no consolation to the U.S., but this was a great night for African football, and by extension, for the World Cup.