Now that the euphoria has faded – perhaps ever so slightly – following America’s remarkable 1-0 win over Algeria in the World Cup, it’s time to look ahead. And believe it or not, on paper, the U.S. is a favorite to reach the semifinals.
FIFA’s world rankings are an imperfect guide for judging the true strength of teams around the globe. After all, France is currently ranked ninth, and that country just embarrassed itself in South Africa. Turns out numeric rankings can’t predict whether a player will insult the mother of the coach, or whether a team will refuse to train for the most important sporting event in the world. (See our favorite World Cup photos)
Still, the rankings are a useful guide. Next up for the Americans, ranked 14th in the world, is Ghana, ranked 32nd. Even though Ghana lost 1-0 to Germany on Wednesday, the Black Stars advanced because Australia bounced Serbia out of the tournament with a 2-1 victory. Ghana won’t be an easy out for the Americans. The Black Stars defeated the U.S., 2-1, at the 2006 World Cup. And as the lone African nation to advance to the second round, the entire continent will be rooting hard for the Ghanaians.
However, it’s an entirely winnable game for the Americans. And should the U.S. advance to the quarterfinals, they would face the winner of the South Korea-Uruguay match on Saturday. Uruguay is ranked 16th. South Korea is ranked 47th. They are both talented teams. But neither strikes the fear of a Brazil, Germany, or Argentina.
The Americans should not look past Ghana, a team that one ESPN analyst called the quickest in the entire tournament. But for American players and fans alike, it’s satisfying to know that all the dramatics against Algeria put the U.S. in a pretty comfortable position.