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Published: June 22, 2006 at 1:39 AM
It's a big day for U.S. soccer as the "Stars and Stripes" take on the "Black Stars" of Ghana - yes that's their nickname not some racist crack I conjured up - for the opportunity to advance into the knock-out round of World Cup play.
The good news for the U.S. is that that despite Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien's stellar play, he shouldn't get much help up front since goal scorers Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari will sit out the match due to yellow card accumulation suspensions. In addition, Ghanaian keeper Richard Kinston has looked shaky at times, which is reason enough for the U.S. to start ripping shots on goal.
The bad news is the U.S. doesn't control its destiny and advancement relies on an Italian victory over the Czech Republic. Both Italy and the Czech Republic will advance with a draw, however, an opening knock-out round match against Brazil awaits the group's second place finisher so there's motivation to do well for both sides.
I'm predicting the U.S. will shut down the Ghanaian attack and take advantage of their vulnerable goalkeeping with an impressive 3-0 victory. The Italians, feeling the pressure of a dismal performance against the U.S. and looking to avoid Brazil at all costs, will defeat the Czechs 1-0 springing the U.S. into the do-or-die leg of the tournament.