I feel lucky to be living in a football loving country during the World Cup. Most men and some women are excited to watch their favorite teams play for glory and pride. A 3 meter screen facing the street near Frankie’s on Oxford Street is playing games from late afternoon to midnight. Though Somovision, a consumer electronics, store was closed for Sunday, management decided to leave its 60″ TV on to play matches for those walking by.
This weekend I’ve been watching games via the free and fuzzy, Ghana TV channel from home. For more noteworthy matches, e.g. Spain vs. The Netherlands, England vs. Italy, I’ve been watching on the crystal clear DSTV broadcasts at the Labadi Beach Hotel. Tonight, when I stopped for ice cream at Arlecchino, I ended up watching the first half of the Bosnia vs. Argentina match.
As an American, I naturally cheer for the underdogs: Bosnia (against Argentina), Japan (against Cote D’Ivoire), The Netherlands (against Spain), Honduras (against France), Costa Rica (against Uruguay), England (vs. Italy). Mostly, I’ve been disappointed but there have been some exhilarating surprises. In contrast, most Ghanaians seem to want their heroes to dominate: Lionel Messi (from Argentina), the entire Spanish side, Balotelli (from Italy), and all the (black) African teams.
Anticipation for tomorrow’s Group G matches is in the air. Germany plays Portugal at 4pm local time. No one seems too interested in the two favorites of the group. Instead, all attention is focused on the Ghana match against the US at 10pm local time. Though that’s past most Ghanaians’ bed times, I’m sure most people will stay up to watch the Black Stars play. Since the World Cup schedule was announced, most Ghanaians expect to defeat the US handily. Sure, I’ve heard a handful of people say that the US will want revenge for its two previous defeats to the Black Stars in the last two World Cups. Again, I will be supporting the underdog: Team USA.
Ghana’s young squad poses multiple threats for Team USA to handle:
- Michael Essien, 31 years old, midfielder (AC Milan) – when he played for Chelsea, Samsung displayed his face on billboards across town
- Kevin-Prince Boateng, 27 years old, forward (Schalke 04)
- Sulley Muntari, 29 years old, midfielder (AC Milan)
- Andre Ayew, 24 years, midfielder (Marseille)
- Kwadwo Asamoah, 25 years, midfielder (Juventus)
- Asamoah Gyan, 28 years old, captain and forward (Al-Ain in UAE) – likable striker whose stars in ads for a local department store
All of these guys are household names here. What’s more, practically the whole squad plays in Europe — Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Holland. Only the goalkeeper plays in Ghana. On June 9th, I watched Ghana’s friendly against South Korea; I stopped watching after Ghana scored 3 goals in the first 60 minutes. The final score was 4-0. (Don’t be fooled by Ghana’s 1-0 loss to The Netherlands last month. Ghana played its reserves for most of the game.)
While Ghana has multiple players who can score, I do think that the team’s defense is not that discplined. I expect them to surrender several goals against more elite teams, e.g. Germany and Portugal.
On the other hand, most of the US squad plays in the domestic league (!). The coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, is more famous than most of his players. Prior to the lead-up to the World Cup, I think I could only name a handful of American players – Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Landon Donovan (!) – who is not playing. I hope all of Klinsmann’s efforts to recruit players with dual citizenship pays off because most Ghanaians do not expect much from the Yanks.
The stars of the American side seem to be:
- Clint Dempsey, 31 years old, forward (Seattle Sounders)
- Jozy Altidore, 24 years old, forward (Sunderland)
- Michael Bradley, 26 years old, midfielder (Toronto)
- Tim Howard, 35 years old, goalkeeper (Everton)
Dual citizenship players:
- Fabian Johnson, 26 years old, defender (Borussia Monchengladbach)
- Julian Green, 19 years old, midfielder (Bayern Munich)
- Aron Johannsson, 23 years old, forward (AZ in Holland)
- John Brooks, 23 years old, defender (Hertha BSC in Germany)
- Timothy Chandler, 24 years old, defender (Eintracht in Germany)
- Mikkel Diskerud, 23 years old, midfielder (Rosenborg BC in Norway)
My challenge will be to find a Team USA-friendly venue to watch the match.
My heart predicts a 2-1 victory for the US. My mind predicts a 3-0 victory for Ghana. (Also, I predict Germany will win 2-1 over Portugal.)