Soccer  > World Cup  > U.S. looks for victory, not revenge, against Ghana
June 25, 2010, 04:17 PM
By Michael Lewis

PRETORIA, South Africa -- For Landon Donovan, four years ago is nothing but history.

What happened to him and his U.S. teammates against Ghana at the 2006 World Cup in Nuremberg, Germany has been forgotten.

The Americans lost 2-1 to Ghana in its final group match, sending them home after the first round. Now, the United States has a chance to avenge that defeat on Saturday, facing the Africans for a place in the quarterfinals in South Africa.

"That was not a good day for me or for the team," Donovan said recalling the 2006 loss. "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."

A trip to the quarterfinals would be only the third for the United States in the World Cup's 80-year history, having done it in 1930 and lastly in 2002.

Donovan was a 20-year-old international novice eight years ago when the Americans reached the final eight in Japan.

These days, he is a "grizzled" veteran of three World Cups. Donovan compared this year's team, which finished Group C play undefeated with a victory and two draw, favorably to the 2002 side.

"The difference being that we've had greater experiences as a team than any other team in our history," he said. "Last year was incredibly valuable for our team, to experience that and the way we experienced it. I think we have a really good group of guys that believe that they can pull off anything and these three games have boosted that even more."
Last year's experience included beating Egypt 3-0 at the Confederations Cup, advancing to the semifinals where it upset Spain and then leading Brazil 2-0 at halftime before losing the final 3-2.

Forward Jozy Altidore feels the real World Cup starts Saturday.

Getting out of the group, he said, was "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."

Despite missing its best player and captain, holding midfielder Michael Essien (knee injury), the Africans finished with four points in Group D, behind Germany and ahead of Australia on goal difference.

Ghana has struggled offensively, needing penalty kicks to score both goals.

"I've been impressed with them," Donovan said. "I thought they would struggle a little bit without 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 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."

Goalkeeper Tim Howard, who penalty kick stopping skills could come in handy in a possible shootout, agreed.

"They're physical. They're strong. They're fast," he said. "They 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."

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