The FIFA World Cup game between the U.S. and Ghana was more than highly anticipated in the “Death Group.” In the case of yesterday’s game, the justification behind dubbing Group G the “Death Group” was multifaceted. It had little to do with FIFA rankings. The deathly significance of today’s game hinged upon the past World Cup meetings between the U.S. and Ghana, where Ghana defeated the U.S. both in the 2006 and 2010. For John Brooks, the win was already in the bag as the player had a dream two days prior that he was going to score.
Though Germany and Portugal are ranked 2nd and 4th respectively, the 37th-ranked Ghana posed more of an issue for the 13th-ranked U.S. squad in light of the two teams’ head-to-head track record. Rankings aside, Ghana upset the U.S. attempt to make it out of group play in 2006, and then handed them a heartbreaking defeat in the round of 16 in 2010. Simply put, yesterday’s game was a big deal for the U.S., not just in terms of group play, but also in terms of avengement.
The game got off to a very quick and lively start as Clint Dempsey scored in the 29th second. Dempsey received the ball from Jermaine Jones, weaved around Ghana defenders Mubarak Wakaso and Sulley Muntari, and gave a left-footed strike that ricocheted off the right post before hitting the back of the net. The goal goes down as the 5th fastest goal scored in World Cup history.
Dempsey gave a good showing up top, owning the captain’s badge after point man Jozy Altidore came off the pitch with a strained left hamstring. In the 33rd minute Dempsey took a kick to the face, and though he gave a heroic gesture and played on with an obviously smashed nose and questionable concussion, the player faded away towards the end of the match. Sports Center reported that the U.S. captain suffers from a basal fracture, which, if accurate, is cause for some concern.
The second hamstring injury of the night came from Matt Besler, who reported that he felt his hamstring “ball up” after making a slide tackle just before the end of the first half. Bad news for Besler was good news for substitute John Brooks, with his recent goal-scoring dream undoubtedly in the back of his mind. The U.S. defense looked visibly shaky as the second half wore on, and in the 82nd minute, Ghana’s Andre Ayew gave a fabulous shot with the outside of his foot that had Tim Howard going in the opposite direction. With only eight minutes left, the U.S. and Ghana were tied 1-1.
In the 86th minute, fate turned in the U.S. team’s favor as Brooks was able to get on the end of a corner kick and produce a glorious bouncing header past Ghana’s goalkeeper. In a moment of celebratory shock, Brooks slid to the ground as his teammates rushed him in a flurry of congratulation. The game’s commentator remarked of the player, “He couldn’t have even dreamt that.” It was only after the game in an interview that Brooks revealed that he had in fact dreamt the entire event just two days prior.
The 21-year-old German-American defender dreamt that he would score a goal against Ghana in the 88th minute. Though his premonition was off by a mere 2 minutes in real-time, Brooks’ goal in the 86th minute has become monumental on several fronts. The goal itself goes down in the books as being the first ever World Cup goal for the U.S. scored by a substitute. More than that, it effectively brought an end to the World Cup losing streak that the U.S. had experienced against Ghana over the past two tournament appearances. Finally, the win puts the U.S. in a better position to make it out of group play as they are set to go up against Portugal on June 22nd. If there ever was a moment to start believing in prophetic dreams, now is as good a time as any, and let us all hope that John Brooks has some more of them.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson