USA vs. Ghana, 2014 World Cup preview: Must-win for both teams

With European giants looming, nothing but all three points will do for the United States and Ghana.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Update: United States beat Ghana 2-1

The United States and Ghana meet again on Monday, and the match could be the entire World Cup for one of them.

Is a group of death really a group of death when there are two clear favorites to advance? Ghana and the United States make up a very deep and difficult Group G, but no one seems to expect either to get out of it. Germany and Portugal have better squads, and when these two go on to face them, they're going to have a tough time.

But both teams have enough talent to take points from those games, and they haven't come into this World Cup thinking that they're incapable of making a deep run. They can put together three solid performances, then win a knockout stage game, but it's difficult to see either of them doing it without grabbing all three points from their opener on Monday.

These two sides have more recent history than anyone else in the World Cup, having met in the last two editions of the tournament. Ghana was victorious and sent the United States packing on both of those occasions, sparking a bit of a rivalry, at least in the minds of the fans. A third straight loss to Ghana would be a bit embarrassing for USMNT supporters, though this is an excellent Ghana side, and there's no shame in losing to them.

The biggest tactical question heading into the match is whether the coaches have found their best teams. Jürgen Klinsmann has switched to a diamond midfield and was testing new players in new spots all the way until the end of the United States' friendly matches, while fitness problems might cause Akwasi Appiah to do some shuffling.

Team news

The United States only have one reported injury issue, and it'll take away any selection dilemmas. Timothy Chandler has a leg injury, so Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley should be the starting fullbacks. Klinsmann could also be weighing up how defensive he wants to go in his midfield. Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman should start together, but it's possible one is dropped for a more attacking option.

Ghana's team is a bit less obvious -- their best current player, Kwadwo Asamoah, can play multiple positions and one of their greatest ever players, Michael Essien, isn't fully fit. Asamoah was set to start at left back, but an injury to Majeed Waris could cause Appiah to move Asamoah to the wing and introduce a defender. It's also not clear who's first choice in goal for the Black Stars.

Projected lineups

United States (4-4-2): Tim Howard; DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson; Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley; Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore

Ghana (4-3-3): Adam Kwarasey; Kwadwo Asamoah, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful; Mohammed Rabiu, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng; Andre Ayew, Asamoah Gyan, Jordan Ayew

Key matchups

Jermaine Jones vs. Kwadwo Asamoah - These two are going to see quite a bit of each other no matter what positions they play, but especially if Asamoah plays left back while Jones plays as the right shuttling midfielder in the U.S. diamond. If Asamoah does start on the left, Ghana are going to be extremely left-leaning in attack, and it'll be up to Jones to slow those attacks.

Michael Bradley vs. Ghana's DM - It's not clear if Michael Essien will return to the Ghana team or if Mohammed Rabiu will take his place, but either would have his hands full with Michael Bradley. Formerly a box-to-box midfielder, Bradley has been moved up the pitch by Klinsmann to utilize his playmaking skills, but he won't be able to do much playmaking if he can't get the ball.

Prediction

These teams are too even to separate, and ultimately, that will see them knock each other out of this tournament before they really get started. 1-1 draw.

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