World Cup begins for U.S. National Team as it takes on old rivals Ghana in opening group match

U.S.A. vs. Ghana

2014 FIFA World Cup, Group Stage
Monday, June 16; 3 pm PT; Estadio das Dunas; Natal, Brazil
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision

Teams can play dozens of matches without garnering the historical significance that has grown between the U.S. National Team and Ghana.

Yet there are few countries around the world that evoke the same emotions in American soccer fans as Ghana. When the two teams meet in the first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the U.S. will work to put those memories behind them and put to rest any demons from previous World Cups.

"Not a word's been spoken. We've said that all along. That was four years ago. It's ancient history, really, in the way football is looked at," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "This is a different team, with a different mindset. We're ready. It has been a long time coming, but we know it's right around the corner."

The history of bad blood between the U.S. and Ghana is well-storied, even if it comes from just two matches over the last eight years. Those two defeats could hardly have been any more bitter for the U.S. though.

In 2006, the U.S. clung to a distant hope of advancing in the Group Stage in Germany, needing win over Ghana to earn a spot in the Knockout Round. After falling behind 1-0, Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey scored the equalizer only to have Ghana pull ahead again just before the strike of halftime and held on for a 2-1 win.

In 2010, a magical run through the Group Stage resulted in a rematch with Ghana in the Round of 16. Again Ghana pulled ahead early and the U.S. equalized thanks to Dempsey, this time drawing a penalty that was converted by Landon Donovan. Ghana forward Asamoah Gyan scored early in overtime and the U.S. couldn't rekindle the fire to mount another comeback and Ghana advanced with a 2-1 win.

However, the focus for the last few weeks has been on Monday's match and not the history between the two countries.

"I think when you talk about a big tournament like this, everybody goes into the first game with the idea that you want points," U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. "Everybody starts at zero, so the first game is so important. Statistically the chances of advancing go way up now if you're able to get a point or three from the first game. We've certainly made no secret of the fact that all the focus at this point is about Ghana and making sure that we do everything we can so that on June 16 we step on the field and are ready to leave it all out there knowing that a good result puts us in a really good spot."

While the U.S. tries not to let the history between the two teams be a determining factor, it can use the previous experiences as a scouting tool for the first Group Stage match.

"Ghana's a team that can cause you trouble, especially in the attacking half. In the attacking part of the field they have guys who have a mix of athleticism, technical ability, and the way they can take certain plays and almost improvise and turn that half play into all of a sudden, a chance," Bradley said. "I do think it's a different team than the one that we played in 2010, and obviously a different coach."

Kickoff for Monday's match is scheduled for 3 pm PT with television coverage on ESPN. Dempsey will captain the USMNT, while DeAndre Yedlin is the first MLS Homegrown Player to represent the U.S. at the World Cup. Sounders FC will take part in viewing parties locally at Doyle's Public House in Tacoma and Atlantic Crossing in Seattle. Roger Levesque and Marcus Hahnemann will be at Doyle's while Lamar Neagle, Gonzalo Pineda and Chad Barrett will be on hand at Atlantic Crossing.