COSTA DO SAUIPE // Asamoah Gyan and Ghana will be looking to complete a World Cup treble next summer when they face the United States in Brazil.
The side have eliminated the US at the past two iterations of global football’s six-week jamboree and the two nations will meet again after being paired together in Group G, alongside Germany and Portugal.
Gyan, the prolific Al Ain striker, missed Ghana’s 2-1 defeat of the US in 2006 because of a suspension, but was his country’s hero four years later when he scored a 93rd-minute winner against the Americans in the round of 16. The 2-1 victory after extra time saw an African side progress to the quarter-finals for the first time in World Cup history.
Kwesi Appiah, the Ghana coach, insists his side have improved in the three-plus years since they captured a continent’s hearts while playing in South Africa. He appreciates, however, that qualification following a tough draw will be more difficult this time around.
“It’s nice to meet Germany and also the US, who we beat in the last 16 in 2010,” Appiah said. “We are a better team than in 2010 and I’m sure there will be a lot of surprises in this group. Talking of Germany, Portugal, United States and Ghana, you have to term it the Group of Death, but as I said before the draw, once you are prepared to go to the World Cup, you must be prepared to face any team that comes to a World Cup.”
The United States were likely to be drawn in a tough group, courtesy of their position as the strongest-ranked team in Pot 3 on Friday night. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann admitted he had a gut feeling his side would draw his country of birth, Germany, while he suggested it was time for revenge against the Ghanaians.
“That’s one of those crazy stories football writes,” Klinsmann said of facing Germany, the country he helped lead to World Cup success in 1990. “I had a feeling in my stomach we would get Germany. It’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw.”
Klinsmann, who exchanged smiles with German counterpart Joachim Low as the draw was announced, insisted his side would be both prepared and confident, dismissing the notion his adopted country will travel to South America as underdogs.
“We don’t look at ourselves as outsiders,” he said. “The 32 teams in the field deserve to be here. We will work on building the belief that we can beat Germany, Portugal and Ghana. After two losses to Ghana, it’s time to beat them.”
Low, who worked as an assistant under Klinsmann when the latter took Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup on home soil, said he has remained in close contact with his former boss, but that the exchanging of ideas that had become commonplace between the two friends “will certainly change before the World Cup match”.
If Gyan is Ghana’s weapon, there is no doubting who the star is for the fourth team in Group G. Cristiano Ronaldo practically single-handedly dragged Portugal through a World Cup play-off against Sweden to qualify for next June’s showpiece and he will be expected to shine in Brazil. Appiah, however, is not overly concerned.
“If you want to win a World Cup, you have to beat teams from Europe,” the Ghana coach said. “Portugal is a very strong side, but the most important thing is we have to play to our best level so that we can beat any team that comes our way.”