United States v Ghana - Preview
United States coach Bob Bradley believes his team can go all the way to the World Cup final after receiving a team talk from President Barack Obama. The president called the team on Thursday during dinner to wish them well in Saturday's last 16 clash with Ghana at the Royal Bafokeng stadium.
Bradley, whose side finished top of Group C above England, said: "We were honoured before a big match to receive a call from President Obama and if we continue to build on the successes so far we can go to the end. That's what it is all about, but that has to be balanced with a concentration on each game.
"We try hard not to get ahead of ourselves but at the same time everybody has this idea that if everybody gives their best effort, if everybody puts everything they have into it and if things go our way then we can travel far."
As well as passing on his best wishes President Obama demonstrated he had been following the team's progress by asking how goalkeeper Tim Howard's ribs were recovering from the collision with Emile Heskey in their first match, a 1-1 draw against England. He also inquired about a cut to the face of Fulham striker Clint Dempsey. Both will be fit to face Ghana, who will be flying a lone flag for Africa in the last 16 after finishing runners-up to Germany in Group D.
Bradley has no intentions of taking them lightly. He said: "This Ghana team is well put together. Their coach has done a good job. The team is organised, has talented individuals and great athletic ability.
"They are dangerous because they have individual players who you think they are going to pass and at the last second they dribble.
"You think they are going to go left and they surprise you and go right. They have unpredictability. You are not always sure what they are going to do." The same might be said of his own team who clinched their place in the last 16 with a stoppage-time winner against Algeria from their evergreen striker Landon Donovan.
The LA Galaxy star, who was on loan at Everton for part of last season, will be making his 127th appearance for his country, in which he has scored 44 goals. He is one of the reasons Bradley believes his side cannot be seen as just a functional outfit. He insists they also have star quality.
Bradley said: "We have shown an ability to move the ball quickly and intelligently. We have some individuals who have made the special plays you need to win championships.
"We have never believed that all you need to do is to put on your work clothes. We are a team that works hard, is disciplined and is creative at the right moments. We try to put all those things together."
Ghana manager Milovan Rajevac warned the United States to expect "a 90-minute war." Rajevac, whose side finished runners-up in Group D to Germany, said: "We are going to fight and do our utmost to get Ghana into the quarter finals. It will be difficult but we have a big opportunity.
"I am very proud of these boys. Their main strength is the unity of the team. We always play as a team and not as individuals and that's why we have managed to have success recently.
"The world likes good football and Ghana has a lot of supporters worldwide. I hope after the match Ghana has even more supporters worldwide. That would be a great satisfaction for us."
Defenders John Mensah and Jonathan Mensah have recovered from injuries but Isaac Vorsah is ruled out. Rajevac, however, will not be taking the United States for granted. The Serbian played in the US indoor soccer league as a contemporary of Pele, Johann Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer and he has a respect for the way in which the American game has progressed over the past three decades.
He said: "America has grown into a football superpower but it also has sports which are given more priority.
"But the football team play with strength and speed. You never know how to deal with them.
"In the last half an hour they increase the tempo and speed and it is difficult to match them. Until the final whistle you don't know how to deal with them.
"Slovenia scored two goals against them and in the end the USA still nearly won."
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