NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – New Rochelle residents plan to don their finest red, white and blue for the next few weeks, and the USA got off to a great start in the World Cup Monday, June 16, by defeating Ghana, 2-1.
The men's national team avenged their last two losses to Ghana with a John Brooks header off a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 86th minute. In the past four World Cups, 84.6 percent of teams that win their first game progressed to the second round, while just 8.7 percent of teams that lost their opening game advanced to the elimination stage.
The Black Stars and Yanks have a recent history that has sparked an intense rivalry between the two teams. At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the U.S. team was knocked out of the tournament in the group stage when they were beaten 2-1 by Ghana. In 2010, after advancing to the round of 16, they were again bested by the same score in a hotly contested game, sending them packing.
Steve Brooks, who described himself as “an avid soccer fan,” said that he believes that the team is overdue to top their foes.
“I think the Americans are being discounted, I think they have a good shot,” he said. “They’re pretty evenly matched, and if (the U.S.) can sit back and not give them a chance to counter, I think it’s about time we win one.”
This year, the Americans face a tough road if they hope to advance out of the group stage. Aside from Ghana (ranked 37th in the international FIFA rankings), the Americans (13th) will need to persevere over Germany (2nd) and a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal (4th) in this year’s dreaded “group of death.”
Although things don’t look entirely promising for the team’s chances, New Rochelle resident James Jones said, before Monday's match, that he isn’t about to discount his country.
“This is why they play the games, right,” “They have a tough road ahead, but there’s no reason they can’t pull it out. They’ve beaten good teams before.”
“It’s important that they come out fast and don’t let up,” Guy Simpson said while having lunch in New Rochelle Monday afternoon. “I think if they can even get a draw against Ghana, with that defender having to miss the next game (America) might just be able to sneak out of this darn group somehow.”
The two teams that earn the most points in the group stage will advance to the elimination rounds. America may have caught a break on Monday, when Germany manhandled Portugal in a 4-0 rout.
In addition to garnering no points in their opening game, Portugal, America’s next opponent, will be without their most decorated defender, Pepe, who earned a red card for an outburst that saw him mocking Germany’s Thomas Muller.