USA’s luck finally ran out here, Asamoah Gyan’s extra-time volley deciding a thrilling contest, sending Ghana through to the quarter finals – only third African side ever to do so – where they will face Uruguay.
Once again a contest involving the USA was a real game of two halves. The first 45 minutes were all Ghana, another slick display of pass and move giving them the lead after just five minutes: Kevin Prince Boateng, the German-born midfielder only cleared to play for Ghana a month before the World Cup, ran at the US defence and struck a fierce low shot into the bottom corner.
The US midfield were overrun and could not keep hold of the ball. Ricardo Clark, who Boateng had robbed in possession for Ghana’s goal, was miles off the pace and was removed after just half an hour. Bob Bradley has shown at this World Cup that he is not afraid of making early decisions if things are not going well, and more often than not it has paid off. It worked here, too, Maurice Edu providing a bit more grit to proceedings.
Bradley went further at half time, Benny Feilhaber replacing Robbie Findley, but with Feilhaber looking very much the part when given the chance, and Findley awful in every game, Bradley doesn’t deserve credit for making a smart change at half time so much as making the wrong one in the first place.
The US were much improved in the second half and were level on the hour, Clint Dempsey nutmegging one defender then felled by another, winning a penalty from which Landon Donovan made no mistake. They looked most likely to score after that, Ghana retreating into themselves, happy enough to contain. Michael Bradley has excellent at this tournament but the coach’s son could not put the gloss on another fine performance when one on one with Richard Kingson, the Ghana keeper saving well.
USA would have gone into extra time by far the more confident side, but once again they were caught on the hop as Ghana started much as they had begun the first half: with pace, power and skill.
Just three minutes into extra time they were back in the lead. Asamoah Gyan raced after a long ball over the top, outmuscled USA captain Carlos Bocanegra, then lashed a left footed volley past Tim Howard. It was Gyan’s third goal of the tournament, but his first from open play.
USA pushed forward but were unable to force their way back into the game, and there were no late heroics here. While they will be disappointed to be going home so soon after topping their group and getting into the easiest bracket of the knockout stages. Clint Dempsey has further enhanced his status, and both Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan will have suitors beyond the MLS.
Ghana move on to the quarter finals to face Uruguay and even after seeing them play four times I am not sure what to expect. They veer between thrilling attacking play and naivety in possession and defence at the drop of a hat and are very unpredictable and unless they can find a bit of consistency in the next few days they will struggle against a well-organised Uruguay. There are doubts over Kevin Prince Boateng’s fitness, and both Jonathan Mensah and André Ayew are suspended after picking up their second yellow cards of the tournament.