June 22, 2006

Ghana 2, U.S.A. 1: We wuz robbed, maybe. An atrocious call at the end of the first half gave Ghana a penalty kick, which former Juventus star Stephen Appiah converted. The goal allowed the Black Stars to play D in the second half, and in spite of coming close a number of times, it wasn't to be. Clint Dempsey scored the only goal for the U.S. in the 42nd minute off a perfect pass from DeMarcus Beasley, but the subpar effort of playmaker Claudio Reyna proved devastating.

In the aftermath of the game, the ESPN crew really took off after Bruce Arena, another sign that it's a bad idea to have former national team players doing the commentary. Ghana was favored going into the game, and could have advanced with a draw. Thus, they played more cautiously than they did against the Czechs, and took advantage of a Reyna blunder and a blown call by the ref for their goals. Any tactical decisions that a coach might make are going to get mooted when the refs are calling phantom fouls in the penalty area. As for the rest, Ghana has a great team, and the big reason the U.S. couldn't work its game plan was that Ghana wouldn't let them. It was a tough group, and two good teams were destined to go home early. It just so happened that one of them was the U.S.

The other complaint was that the U.S. was doomed following their 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic, which supposedly put them in a hole from the start. Putting aside the fact that the inspired effort against Italy was largely due to the weak effort in the opener, the fact is, had the U.S. tied the Czechs rather than lose, they still would have been eliminated by today's loss. Had they tied the Czechs and Ghana, they would have been eliminated. In fact, had they beaten the Czechs, 1-0, the loss today to Ghana would have sent them home on goal differential. The important game was today, as it turned out, and they didn't get the job done, but the reason for that is what Ghana did, not what the U.S. failed to do.

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