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USA vs. Ghana World Cup instant analysis

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This is the third time in five World Cups that the U.S. has reached the second round, which makes me think it must be getting the hang of it this soccer lark. Landon Donovan might've popped up a bit sooner with the winning goal against Algeria and saved us all a few Aspirin, but we'll forgive him, just this once.

The U.S. could do with a better start against Ghana, a tidy team that doesn't like to chase a deficit as much as the U.S. seems to -- and let's not forget that the U.S. has never gone on to win a World Cup match in which it's fallen behind. I felt a bit crestfallen when Jozy Altidore said he wanted "a boring game" (these things don't write themselves, you know), but he makes a valid point, doesn't he? Or is it the last-ditch, heart-in-mouth heroics that have got people hooked in the first place?

I've got this game down as a first-goal-wins kind of contest, and on the other side waits a second quarterfinal in eight years if the U.S. wins. As the cliché goes, there are no easy games in the World Cup, but having avoided Germany and perhaps Argentina, Bob Bradley must stare at his wallchart and let his eyes wander to the semifinals. I realize (so you can stop sending the emails) that there are still some Americans who question any sporting contest that can end in a draw, but there are no draws from now on: it's simply death or glory.

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A second-round win over Ghana might not be quite as miraculous as defeating the Soviets at hockey in 1980, or have the drama of the Colts' 1958 overtime win over the Giants, but it's a damn good start. Join me here from 2 p.m. ET on Saturday for team news, live instant analysis of the game and a spot of banter, if you fancy it -- email