Oh, football. Just when you think it's going to let you down, a barmy last 10 minutes makes everything all better again – and makes sure this World Cup just keeps on giving.
Clint Dempsey's first-minute opener – the fifth-fastest goal in tournament history – got Jurgen Klinsmann's side off to the perfect start. But, after more than 80 minutes of huff and puff, Ghana looked to have earned a point when Andre Ayew fired home a super equaliser. It was perhaps no more than they'd deserved but equally, when substitutes Graham Zusi and John Brooks combined from a corner four minutes later, you couldn't help but feel the Black Stars' wastefulness meant this heartbreaking defeat was entirely their own fault.
After 63 minutes they'd tested Tim Howard with just 1 of 13 efforts; by full-time it was 3 in 21.
This was no easy game for the USA, and they'll be thanking their lucky stars (all 50 of 'em) that they were able to come away from this must-win affair with maximum points. It's unlikely that Portugal, and certainly Germany, will be anywhere near as forgiving in front of goal.
They'll certainly have to do more to retain possession: Ghana dominated the ball from the first whistle, and Klinsmann's team didn't do a great job of protecting their early lead. They completed just 201 passes at a rate of 73%, and gave the ball away cheaply whenever they got sight of the opposition half. Ghana recovered possession a huge 56 times (to USA's 31): loose balls from poor play, effectively.
Still, they showed none of that matters if things go the right way. In the second half, Ghana made three times as many passes in the final third, with the USA registering accuracy of just 49% at the sharp end.
Ghana's wing-first strategy could have paid off on another day – they did complete 13 of 38 crosses successfully, and one in particular was headed horribly off target by Asamoah Gyan – but their decision making was often poor as Geoff Cameron (14 clearances, 6 more than any other player) & Co. regularly cleaned up.
It looks like the end of the road already for the Black Stars, although there were positives to take into their ominously difficult next game against Germany. Sulley Muntari's set-pieces (3 of the game-high 4 chances he created here came this way) could prove important against Joachim Low's towering defence, while his combative nature could be just what Ghana need to disrupt the metronomic midfield facing them.
Facts and figures
- Clint Dempsey’s goal (29 seconds) was the fifth fastest in World Cup history.
- USA did not manage another shot on target until the 63rd minute.
- USA scored more than once for only the third time in their last 12 World Cup games.
- USA have kept only 1 clean sheet in their last 9 World Cup games.
- Ghana had 21 shots, a joint-high in the World Cup so far (along with Ivory Coast) but only 3 of the 21 were on target.
- USA led in this game for more than 90 minutes (including injury time) after leading for only 4 mins and 20 seconds in the 2010 World Cup (across 4 games).
- Clint Dempsey has now scored in 3 successive World Cups, with 2 of his 3 goals coming against Ghana.
- USA’s pass completion was 73% which is the second lowest seen in the World Cup so far (only Iran with 72% vs Nigeria have shown lower).
- Daniel Opare made 11 crosses, three more than the USA did in total, but only 2 reached a team-mate.