United States vs. Ghana - Some prematch facts, quotes, and some more links

OK, I have to thank US Soccer for doing a good job during this World Cup of providing quality information on their site and via their media email updates,

lets start today with the latest from Studio 90, which features a look at how fans have been celebrating the US matches in Africa, the UK, and here in the States:

 


 

Next up here are some quotes from US Head Coach Bob Bradley:

U.S. Men's National Team Head Coach BOB BRADLEY 

On his feelings on having achieved the goal of advancing to the second round: 
"That was our first goal, that wasn't our goal. It would be important to understand that the way we always discussed it was with the understanding that first you have to get out of your group, it's three games. I think we've seen in this World Cup in so many of the groups that results don't always go exactly as expected. I think all teams go to great lengths to prepare, physically, tactically, so it produces tough moments for everybody. We understood that going in. I think we feel good about the way we handled the first round, the different challenges and the way we responded along the way. But now, when you get to the knockout phases it's again the opportunity to see how far you can take it. You can feel good about getting there but now you have to quickly put that behind you and focus on your next opponent and that's where we are right now."    

On having the majority of support from the crowd and how that may change Saturday against Ghana:
"To see our fans here, to be on the bus going to the stadium and to hear them shouting USA, USA, to see our flags being waved, that's a special feeling and it's one that every one of us on the bus felt. We've had experience when we've had our fans behind us, we've had experience when the stadium was mainly filled with supporters for the other team but we can still always find our supporters in those stadiums. We have always had a very loyal group of people that support U.S. Soccer. We appreciate that. When you look at this World Cup, I think that we experienced it last year as well, the passion for the game in Africa, the way we've been received in South Africa, the people in this country, the friendliness that they've shown us, the support they've shown us last year and again this year is something that all of us will remember. For me, now, it's my fifth time in South Africa, I was here for the Mandela Challenge, was here for the Confederations Cup, was here for the different draws, I've been around looking at venues and possible base camps and it's an amazing country. That starts with the people because they're passionate, they're friendly and we've all enjoyed the experience of seeing what South Africa is all about."

More quotes and some fun facts after the jump:

U.S. MNT Midfielder LANDON DONOVAN

On his impressions of Ghana:
"I've been impressed with them. I thought they would struggle a little bit without (Michael) Essien but I think they've looked very good. They're going to be a very difficult team to play with. Clearly their athleticism will be difficult to deal with. My guess is that they're have quite a bit of support. Like a lot of African teams, they can be unpredictable sometimes, which can be a plus or a minus. We'll spend the next two days looking at a lot of tape, like we always do, and looking at individual players and what they're strengths and weaknesses are."

On what he remembers from the game against Ghana at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and whether Saturday's game is a chance to put that behind him:
"That was not a good day for me or for the team and what I remember most, personally, is my tentativeness and the immediate feeling afterwards, the finality of it and how disappointing that was.

"I've already put that behind me. This is a chance to do something very special."

U.S. MNT Goalkeeper TIM HOWARD

On what he knows about Ghana: 
"We've seen a lot of their games. They're physical, they're strong, they're fast, the can create special moments one-on-one. As individuals, I think that plays to us a little bit because I think we're strong and we're fast and we like to go head-to-head. I think, collectively, if we do the same things we've been talking about, defending well as a unit, staying compact, I think the game will open up for us."

U.S. MNT Forward JOZY ALTIDORE

On facing Ghana who knocked the U.S. out in 2006:
"It's a good chance for us because it's a rematch. A lot of the guys were on that team in 2006 that got knocked out by them. They all understand what the game means and how important it is to all of us."

On if the pressure is off the team now that they have made the Round of 16:
"No I don't think so. [Getting out of the group] is the hardest part, definitely. But now the tournament really starts for us. We wanted to get out of the group and then make statement. We have the opportunity to do that Saturday but at the same time we have to respect and understand that it's going to take a lot - and that has to come from us. The form has to continue, which is what I'm hoping for from a lot of guys."

On if the crowd will be behind Ghana, who could be the last African team left in the tournament:
"They might be their favorite but we have a lot of people who came to see us in South Africa. It should be an even split hopefully. Either way, it doesn't change what we're setting out to do in this game. We've done well to come this far but now we want to make a statement and make a push. It won't be easy and like I said, it's going to be one of our biggest hurdles."

OK, onto the Quick Hits (great little bits of info from US Soccer):

QUICK HITS

  • The USA won its group at the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1930 (that's 80 years ago), and for the first time ever in a four-team group. The win against Algeria marked the first point and win for the U.S. in the third group game at the World Cup in eight tries.
  • The 1-0-2 record also represents the first time the United States has gone unbeaten in group play during a World Cup.
  • Tim Howard posted the first shutout by a U.S. goalkeeper in the World Cup since the famous 2-0 victory against Mexico on June 17, 2002, in the Round of 16 in Korea/Japan.
  • Tournament rules provide that all 23 players dress for FIFA World Cup matches.
  • Both teams will have a full complement of players from which to select. Robbie Findley returns from a one-match ban for yellow card accumulation served for the Algeria match.
  • The meeting with Ghana marks the third match for the U.S. against an African team in the World Cup, all which have come in the past two tournaments. The U.S. also faced Ghana in 2006 in Germany, and defeated their only other African opponent, Algeria, this past Wednesday.
  • Landon Donovan's 91st minute goal against Algeria made him the only American player to score multiple goals in two World Cups. His second-half goal against Slovenia a week ago sparked the U.S. comeback, and the USA's all-time leader in scoring also netted twice in 2002 against Poland and Mexico.
  • Donovan's fourth FIFA World Cup goal ties him with Bert Patenaude (all in the 1930 World Cup) for most by a U.S. player in a career.
  • Donovan became the third U.S. player to score in multiple World Cups, joining Clint Dempsey (who reached that feat with the tying goal on June 12 against England) and former U.S. forward Brian McBride.
  • Donovan collected his 11th World Cup cap, tied for first on the U.S. all-time list with Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart.
  • He has started in every World Cup match for the U.S. since 2002. Steve Cherundolo has started all six of the USA's previous World Cup matches dating back to 2006.
  • With his appearance against Algeria, DaMarcus Beasley increased his World Cup cap total to seven games.
  • Conversely, 12 different U.S. players have made their World Cup debut in 2010: Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Bornstein, Michael Bradley, Edson Buddle, Ricardo Clark, Jay DeMerit, Maurice Edu, Findley, Herculez Gómez, Stuart Holden, Howard and José Torres are the other World Cup debutants.
  • Eight players started all three group matches for the USA: Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Bradley, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard. On that list, everyone except Altidore has played every minute of the first two matches.
  • Against England, Findley became the first U.S. player to start a World Cup game for the U.S. after not participating in the qualifying cycle since Pablo Mastroeni started against Portugal to open the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
  • The shutout against Algeria was the first for the U.S. in all matches since Sept. 9, 2009, when the U.S. beat Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 in Port of Spain, a string of 12 games.
  • Nineteen of the 23 players on the U.S. World Cup Team appeared in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying for the U.S., although only eight appeared in at least half of the USA's qualifiers (Altidore, Beasley, Bocanegra, Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan, Howard and Oguchi Onyewu).
  • The U.S. squad carries a variety of World Cup experience into South Africa, as 15 players have been named to their first World Cup roster. Meantime, six players had played in a World Cup game prior to South Africa. Cherundolo, Donovan, and Beasley have earned a place in their third World Cup.
  • Sixteen players on the roster have scored at least one international goal, and eight have scored in 2010: Altidore, Bradley, Bocanegra, Buddle, Dempsey, Edu, Gómez, and Clarence Goodson.
  • Buddle became the most recent debutant on a U.S. scoresheet, netting a pair in the USA's 3-1 win against Australia on June 5 in Roodepoort. He is the first player to score his first two goals in the same game since Sacha Kljestan posted a hat trick on Jan. 20, 2008, against Sweden.
  • Donovan's assist against Australia increased his record-setting total to 45 for his career.
  • Howard finished the 2010 qualifying cycle with six clean sheets in 13 appearances and a 0.92 goals against average.
  • By earning 45 minutes against Australia, Marcus Hahnemann made his first appearance for the U.S. since Oct. 17, 2007, a 1-0 win in Switzerland. Hahnemann holds the record for the longest layoff between caps for the United States, with an eight-year, five-month, 28-day break between games from Nov. 19, 1994 to June 8, 2003.
  • With their goals on May 25 against the Czech Republic, Edu and Gómez became the first pair of U.S. players to get their first goal in the same game since Holden and Robbie Rogers tallied in the 4-1 win against Grenada on July 4, 2009, to open the 2009 Gold Cup.
  • Gómez made the World Cup team after appearing in just two matches before coming on at halftime against the Czech Republic to earn his third cap.
  • Five of the seven defenders on the roster have at least one goal for the national team: Bocanegra, Bornstein, Cherundolo, Goodson, and Onyewu. Three of those tallied in 2009, and all of them memorable. Bocanegra's game-winning header against Honduras in Chicago; Goodson performing the same feat against the same team in the same stadium in the Gold Cup; and Bornstein capping off qualifying with a last-second header against Costa Rica.
  • With his goal against the Netherlands on March 3 in Amsterdam, Bocanegra upped his career tally to 12, just one shy of the mark set by Marcelo Balboa for U.S. defenders.
  • Only two players on the U.S. World Cup team made their first U.S. appearance for Bradley within the last year. Holden debuted on July 4, 2009, with an Independence Day goal in the Gold Cup, and Buddle in the match against the Czechs.
BACK AT THE BAFOKENG: 
Making their third visit to Rustenburg, the U.S. team will certainly be happy to step back into the friendly confines of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium this Saturday, since it will bring back fond memories of what this team can accomplish. The U.S. drew 1-1 with England here to open Group C play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, setting the stage for the team's first place finish in the group. Clint Dempsey tallied his second goal in that stadium that day, raising memories of his first strike there a little more than a year before. After playing with 10 men against defending world champions Italy and then Brazil in their first two matches of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, the U.S. entered the match against Egypt needing a world-class performance and a six-goal swing to advance, which is precisely what they delivered. Goals from Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley and Clint Demspey gave the U.S. the three goals they needed, while Brazil rocked Italy for a treble. The combined results put the United States into the semifinals and their now famous victory against Spain.

So have you ever wondered what it is like on a match day for the US team?  Well Sports Illustrated's Steve Davis (also a SB Nation blogger-Daily Soccer Fix), gives us the details of a "typical" match day:

7-10 a.m.: Breakfast is optional for players, but it's available for three hours. It's essentially the same full breakfast options the players get each day. Choices include pretty much what you'd expect: eggs, egg whites, an omelet station, various cereals and breads, an assortment of fruit juices, etc.
Menus for all meals are designed by head athletic trainer Ivan Pierra and team fitness coach Pierre Barrieu. All meals are prepared by hotel staff chefs. There really is no need for the United States contingent to travel with its own cook because they generally are headquartered at upscale properties. It was the J.W. Marriot at World Cup 2006 and the Park Hyatt in 2002. Similarly, the head cook at the Irene Lodge in suburban Pretoria knows how to prep anything the U.S. team will need.  

OK, if you haven't checked out the SB Nation World Cup homepage you should it contains some great stuff from around the soccer portion of the group and beyond.  This morning we get agreat preview of today's World Cup action from Richard Farley:

Jun 26, 2010 - Welcome to the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup - the sixteen matches that will decide which team will wear the world's soccer crown for the next four years.

Saturday sees the "upper quadrant" of the bracket - the part of the draw sure to produce a surprise semifinalist -narrow the tournament by two more teams. Uruguay and South Korea stage the early match in Port Elizabeth, with the Koreans looking to become the first team in South Africa to score a goal against the Uruguayans. At 2:30 p.m. Eastern, the United States looks to redeem their elimination from Germany 2006 against Africa's last surviving nation, Ghana.

OK, I am going to get ready for the first match of the day but wanted to leave you with one last bit of info about today's big match.  We have seen the US impacted by the calls of officials in the last two matches, and while overall I have been impressed with the quality of the officials at the World Cup, they have been involved in to many questionable calls for anyone to be comfortable.  Well here is the info on the head official in today's US Match:

REFEREE - VICTOR KASSAI: The referee for the Round of 16 clash is Viktor Kassai from Hungary. This will be his third assignment of the World Cup, the 34-year-old having run the middle for Brazil's 2-1 win against North Korea and Uruguay's 1-0 win against Mexico. U.S. fans may remember Kassai from the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, when he refereed the USA's 2-1 loss to Spain. A UEFA Elite Category referee, he has been working European competitions at the club and international level since 2003.

Get Your Gameday On!!

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