MIAMI (AP) — In its final exhibition before facing the United States in the World Cup, Ghana practiced celebrating.
Captain Asamoah Gyan scored a breakaway goal against South Korea and then launched into the azonto, a two-step dance popular in Ghana. Soon he was joined in the corner of the field by a cluster of teammates, their hands, hips and feet moving in impressive synchronicity.
Past World Cup matches against the United States have given Ghana plenty to celebrate. The rivalry will be renewed Monday in Brazil, and the Black Stars want to be ready.
“The United States are a very, very good team,” coach James Appiah said. “It’s not going to be easy. We have to make sure our players are playing their roles well. We hope to give them a very good game.”
The Ghanaians have every reason to be optimistic, because they eliminated the United States from the past two World Cups. So they’ll have the azonto cued up, and other dances ready as well.
“We’ve got different styles — three or four,” Appiah said with a smile. “The players have to decide which one they want to use, but we hope to showcase one of them during the World Cup.”
Ghana defeated the United States in group play in 2006, and in the round of 16 in 2010. A 4-0 victory against South Korea in Miami on Monday suggested Ghana will again be a handful.
“Bring them on, bring them on — the United States,” a reporter from Ghana shouted with a grin in the press box at halftime of the exhibition. “America, we are coming.”
The victory over the U.S. team four years ago sent Ghana into the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time. Ghana was embraced as “Africa’s Team” in the first World Cup on the continent and came within inches of becoming the first African squad to reach the semifinals, but lost to Uruguay in a shootout after Gyan hit the crossbar on a late penalty kick that would have won the game.
FIFA rankings suggest Ghana is the underdog in talent-laden Group G, which also includes the No. 13-ranked United States, No. 2 Germany and No. 4 Portugal. But no one is likely to take the Black Stars lightly.
“They are a very good team, young, very good mentality,” former U.S. national team coach Bora Milutinovic said after watching Ghana beat South Korea. “It will be a big challenge for all teams in this group. Everybody is very strong. It is like a small World Cup between four teams.”