Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ghana 2, USA 1: Richard Kingson Dominates in the Goal

This picture is by Martin Rose of Getty Images.  Richard Kingson is the Ghanaian goalie blocking the shot by the USA's Benny Feilhaber.

Yesterday, Ghana defeated the USA 2-1 in the Round of 16 of the World Cup. For me, the player of the game was Ghana's goalie, Richard Kingson, who came up with as many impressive saves as Tim Howard did for the US against England.

We watched the game at Kingston Road; we did not have power between Thursday afternoon and early this morning (I'm actually surprised it came back on as soon as it did, given how many lines and trees are down around here). 

It was a fun game to watch: I always like those moments in sports when you know that watching a particular game is a broadly-shared experience.

The USA gave up an early goal to Kevin-Prince Boateng and was outmatched in the first half; Ghana's passing was quick and sharp, similar to a well-coached offense in an NCAA tourney game. 

In the second half, though, the Yanks got their act together and had multiple scoring opportunities.  The score came in the 62nd minute, on a Landon Donovan penalty kick after Clint Dempsey was tackled in the box. Throughout the tournament, Dempsey has been the USA's most agressive -- and expressive -- player (sort of the Gary Clark of Brian Mitchell of the team - inspiring others through his intense play and spirit).

After the Donovan goal, the USA had all the momentum.  But, about four minutes into the thirty minute overtime, Asamoah Gyan got behind the US defenders and hit a nice loft just over Tim Howard's head. As the overtime wound down, the players from both teams looked extremely tired and there were no super-close chances for the USA.

Here's Rob Hughes, in today's NYT, on why the Ghanaian victory is important:
For Africa, a continent of 600 million people staging an event of this magnitude for the first time in its history, Ghana is now a lone star. For Ghana to field 19- and 20-year-olds and match the best qualities of the United States — in athleticism, stamina and never-say-die spirit — is what this tournament desperately needed.
As Africa’s other teams dropped out one by one, Ghana stayed strong. As America turned its greater experience to bear in the second half, Ghana had little option but to trust the one advantage it possessed: greater skill.
Here's Michael Bradley and Anthony Annan, in a photo by Phil Cole of Getty. I know this is a cliche, but soccer players are really athletic (the non-stop action/running for 45 minutes!) in a way that makes soccer different from the major American sports.
Donovan on his penalty kick.  This guy was a great team leader - he lived up to the hype.

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