Sure, it was just one match, but it was one for the ages. The U.S. got by Ghana in its opening match of the 2014 World Cup, winning 2-1, but it was how they did it, and who scored the winning goal that made this one so special. And sent the entire nation into a frenzy. Here’s the best of the win, and the wild freakouts that followed it, your Flagrant 2 for Tuesday morning.
“We Believe We Will Win”
So much for the experts.
The United States – considered by most to be the underdogs of the so-called “Group of Death” – proved popular opinion wrong, defeating Ghana 2-1 in a thrilling World Cup opener that tested both mettle and endurance alike.
Captain Clint Dempsey got the U.S. on the board just 29 seconds into the match, taking a touch pass from Jermaine Jones, snaking his way past a defender, then driving one with his left foot. The large American contingent inside Brazil’s Estadio das Dunas rejoiced, but that auspicious beginning soon took a turn. The Americans lost forward Jozy Altidore to a hamstring injury 21 minutes in, then defender Matt Besler, who was taken out at the half after complaining of hamstring tightness. Dempsey, too, was battered, taking a boot from Ghana’s John Boye to the nose, drawing blood (and presumably doing worse).
Their ranks thinned, and their energy sapped by the humidity, the U.S. then had to survive near constant pressure from the Ghanaians, who repeatedly advanced dangerously deep into the box and had several chances to score on headers from close distance. The American bent but did not break, thanks largely to the efforts of Jones and Kyle Beckerman, until the 82nd minute, when Ghana’s Andre Ayew got loose and put one past keeper Tim Howard to level the score at 1-1.
And just like that, it appeared the U.S.’s three points, and hopes to advance to the Round of 16, vanished. But it was a pair of substitutes – John Brooks, on for Besler, and Graham Zusi – who changed that, quickly:
Goooaaaaaaaallllllllllllll indeed. Zusi provided the perfect set piece off the corner, and Brooks headed it home. He’s the first U.S. sub to ever score in the World Cup, and afterwards, he’d tell reporters he dreamed he’d do it, which is just awesome. With the win, the Americans also pick up a key 3 points, and thanks to Germany’s 4-0 destruction of Portugal, they’ve also got the inside track towards advancing out of Group G. They’ll face the Portuguese on Sunday in Manaus, and with a win (or a draw), their path to the knockout stage would be all but certain.
Who needs Landon Donovan anyway?
Understandably, American fans reacted to Brooks’ goal with typical restraint:
Pace yourself, everybody; the World Cup Final isn’t until July 13.