Tag Archives: Rustenberg

Asamoah Gyan takes Ghana to the Quarter Finals

Ghana 2-1 United States

The United States’ dramatic World Cup adventure was brought to an end in Rustenberg this evening. Bob Bradley’s gritty side came back from a goal down to force the game into extra-time. Asamoah Gyan, who had scored twice in the Group Stage, was once again the hero for the Black Stars as his half volley just minutes into the first period of extra-time was to prove the decisive goal.

Ghana arrived in Rustenberg on a bus bearing the slogan “The Hope of Africa”. The sole remaining representatives of the continent enjoyed the majority of the support at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, with many South African fans wearing the shirts of their beloved Bafana Bafana painting their faces in the colours of the Black Stars.

They will have been overjoyed to see Ghana take the lead early on. Kevin-Prince Boateng, so influential to Ghana’s progress thusfar, burst down the left on to Kwadwo Asamoah’s pass and unleashed a low drive past Tim Howard at the near post. The concession of yet another early goal will have surely tested the resolve of the United States but they had proven their resilience time and again in this competition.

Ghana were comfortable in their lead for the remained of the first half as the United States struggled to keep possession in midfield. Goalkeeper Richard Kingson, a reserve at Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, prevented Robbie Findley from equalising. Kingson was unimpressive in earlier games against Serbia and Australia but was far more reassuring this evening.

Kingson produced another fine save just minutes into the second half. Benny Feilhaber, brought on as a substitute for Robbie Findley, was played through by Jozy Altidore but failed to beat Kingson with a left-footed dink.

Ghana were tiring and the United States capitalised after some excellent play from Clint Dempsey. Dempsey found himself isolated on the right but managed to squirm past John Mensah before being brought down in the penalty area by Jonathan. The ever-reliable Landon Donovan equalised emphatically from the penalty.

The United States failed to add to Donovan’s goal, however, despite perhaps being the better side in the second half. The full-time whistle will have come as welcome relief for the Black Stars, who appeared beleaguered by the physicality of the Bob Bradley’s side.

Asamoah Gyan undid the positive play of the United States in the opening minutes of extra-time. The Stade Rennais striker latched on to a hopeful long pass from André Ayew and outmuscled Carlos Bocanegra. Gyan finished superbly, scoring his third goal of the tournament by powering a shot past Tim Howard.

The goal seemed to shatter the confidence of the American players. Any hopes of another dramatic recovery were misplaced. The reenergised Ghanians asserted superiority over the United States throughout extra-time with outstanding performances coming from Kwadwo Asamoah, John Mensah and the goalkeeper Richard Kingson.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

United States 1-1 England

The United States earned a fortunate draw against an underwhelming England in the opening game of Group C. The major talking point will inevitably be the crucial mistake by Robert Green. Green, currently of West Ham United, spilled Clint Dempsey’s tame effort into the net against the run of play. The mishap by Green will not be easy viewing for any football fan and, undoubtedly, will live long in the memory. Many observers in the British press were quick to scorn the goalkeeper while others chose to focus on coach Fabio Capello’s insistence on withholding the identity of England’s starting goalkeeper for so long.  Regardless, even had Green not mishandled Dempsey’s speculative effort, a draw was perhaps a fair result and not disastrous to the ambitions of either side. It is certain that autopsies will run in the British press until Capello’s side entertain the possibility of redemption against Algeria on June 18th.

It had all started so well for England. England’s new captain Steven Gerrard opening the scoring with a neat finish after the midfielder had exchanged passes with Emile Heskey.

England soon withdrew into a false sense of security and a resurgent United States nearly forced an equaliser when Landon Donovan’s searching cross was nearly met by Jozy Altidore.

THE moment arrived five minutes before the interval. Clint Dempsey, in a relatively unthreatening position was drawn into shooting early by his markers and unleashed what looked to be a forlorn effort goalwards. However, in a moment of  weakness from Robert Green, the ball ended up nestled in the back of the net. The Fulham midfielder could hardly believe his luck as he pointed skyward thankfully.

The second half exhibited another forgettable display by Capello’s side. Their consternation evident as possession was needlessly given away as long shunts upfield from Terry and Carragher were returned easily by the American defence. For a player who had just recovered from a nine month absence through injury, Oguchi Onyewu was terrific. His physicality overwhelmed Wayne Rooney, who was unusually ineffective. The AC Milan defender should take pride in his display of aggressive defending as his compatriots and he suffocated every English venture towards Tim Howard’s goal.

Howard himself was in fine form. The Everton goalkeeper had progressed into one of the Premier League’s most reliable shot-stoppers this past season and reproduced his performance levels here despite sustaining an injury to his right shoulder.

His counterpart Robert Green went some way towards redeeming himself when he pushed Jozy Altidore’s effort on to the post. The ineffectuality of the re-called Jamie Carragher will be yet another matter of concern for Fabio Capello on an evening where much of what he thought to be secure was exposed by a robust United States.

For England, the match against Algeria cannot come soon enough. It is almost guaranteed that Capello will make changes to his starting eleven, perhaps starting with his goalkeeper. It has been said that Joe Hart’s performances at training have been far superior to those of his colleagues but his glaring lack of experience has been decisive in keeping him from a place in goal to date. Should Capello continue to hold Hart’s inexperience against him, the only other option is David James, himself no stranger to goalkeeping errors.

Whoever starts in goal for England against Algeria will require better protection than that which was afforded to Robert Green tonight. The withdrawal of Ledley King at half-time saw the introduction of Jamie Carragher. Carragher’s subsequent display will have done little to allay the fears of the English public who have seen him deteriorate from one of the Premier League’s outstanding centre-halves into a bumbling, slouching shadow of his former self. His partner in defence, John Terry, was equally poor. The wayward long passing from the former captain indicative of a player who, like Carragher, has undergone a rapid reversal in his fortunes on the field in recent times.

The result in Rustenberg must serve as a wake-up call for this England squad if they are to pose any threat to sides in the latter stages. The criticism often levelled at England is that they are one-dimensional. Tonight seemed to be a damning confirmation of that notion. Nevertheless, England will look to rebound against an unfancied Algeria side in Cape Town on June 18th.

The ‘Special Relationship’

United States v England.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated fixture in the history of US Soccer. Almost everyone in the United States has an opinion on this game and ESPN expect record ratings for the game. The US public have good reason to be excited by the prospect of the fixture against England. Bob Bradley, while often criticised by some elements of USMNT’s fans, has silently gone about building upon the work of predecessor Bruce Arena and created the best American football team ever.

England enter the World Cup with renewed optimism. They breezed through qualification, are helmed by Fabio Capello and boast three of the best players in the world in the form of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. The harrowing nature of the injury suffered by captain Rio Ferdinand has brought Ledley King into the starting XI. While King and Terry are undoubtedly very talented central defenders, they have been prone to errors this past season. They will need to be fully focused on the task of dealing with a United States’ line of forwards which comes bearing many speedy individuals.

The goalkeeper question has dogged Fabio Capello in the weeks leading up to the kick-off. With each of Joe Hart, David James and incumbent Robert Green rumoured to be ahead in the pecking order at some stage. It is strange for Capello to be uncertain, perhaps he is not and that the mystery is just created in the media. In any case, this position is one where the United States holds a significant advantage. The unheralded Tim Howard has become one of the most athletic and reliable goalkeepers in the Premier League and his understudies Marcus Hahnemann and Brad Guzan are both capable replacements.

For all of the reassurance brought by Howard, the United States defence will be severely tested by England’s attacking quartet. If Capello does as expected and names Heskey, Lennon, Gerrard and Rooney then the United States will need to retain discipline and patience but also be ruthless when necessary. The questionable temperament of Wayne Rooney when he plays for England has come under scrutiny since the friendly against the Platinum Stars, with many suggesting that the United States’ players should attempt to rile the 24 year old Manchester United star. Oguchi Onyewu was unconvincing in his performance against Australia and is yet to complete a full ninety minutes since sustaining an injury at AC Milan nine months ago. Onyewu is a dominating presence and if he is fully fit, as Bradley assures us, then the US may have reason to believe that they can keep England’s attacking options in check.

Fabio Capello’s outburst against intrusive photographers recently was seen by some as a sign that the pressures of being an England coach at a World Cup was finally taking its toll. While I do not agree that Fabio Capello has lost his trademark composure, I do believe that this England side is under pressure to perform against the US. The Three Lions were handed a favourable draw in Group C and are expected to progress with maximum points. Failure to do so could lead to a troublesome Round of 16 fixture against their traditional nemesis Germany and more potential horrors awaiting further into the knockout stages. If England are to reach the World Cup Final for the first time since their triumph in 1966 it is imperative that they beat the United States and top Group C.

USMNT will have other ideas. For so long they have been regarded as something of an oddity, an overachieving side from a nation that is not in touch with the game of football. Now, boosted by a legion of supporters unfathomable even four years ago, the United States will attempt to set about a run into the deeper stages of the tournament.

There is much riding on this game for both sides, failure for either side may have damaging ramifications for their World Cup ambitions.