THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewUS hopes were tempered by their difficult group draw, yet initial despondency has been replaced by a restrained optimism. The theory goes that if they can beat their World Cup bogey team Ghana in the first match, then anything can happen in the other two games. No one would be shocked by a first-round exit though. Ghanaians still have full confidence in the Black Stars doing well based on their good showings in the previous two World Cups.

Some are predicting that they can go one better than last time and reach the semi-finals. They had Serbian coaches for their other two finals appearances so the appointment of a Ghanaian, Kwesi Appiah, in 2012 wasn't popular but it is now recognised that he has done a fine job. Jürgen Klinsmann is not loved in the US but has presided over an impressive string of results. In 2013 the team made history with 12 consecutive victories, winning the Gold Cup and qualifying for Brazil with two games to spare. So while performances haven't always been brilliant, fans are putting up with Klinsmann for now.

Centre-back Omar Gonzalez may be the man to watch for goal celebrations, having had a "sexy saxman" move immortalised in the FIFA 14 computer game. He marked last Thanksgiving with an Instagram video of him playing the saxophone riff from Careless Whisper. Gonzalez was paying tribute to a viral video from 2011 and while he hasn't re-enacted this on the pitch yet, Brazil could be a good place to start.

There'll be wild celebrations in Sunderland if Jozy Altidore scores – it might add a few million onto his resale value. Several of the Ghana squad are associated with music through friendships with the country's most prominent musicians. The squad did a "kangaroo" dance to mark goals in South Africa and have apparently prepared a new move for Brazil but it is being kept secret until they play.

Dede Ayew and Asamoah Gyan are the team's best media performers and also have major commercial deals to promote, respectively, Fan milk and the Melcom supermarket chain, while Sulley Muntari has his own luxury car business in Milan, 4fkMotosport. By contrast, Michael Essien and goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey are both naturally shy people and try to avoid media contact, especially TV interviews.

Among the US players, Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman is the most articulate interviewee, while Clint Dempsey is the worst, speaking in monotone cliches and saying "good" or "err" a lot. Midfielder Graham Zusi from Sporting Kansas City usually has things to say though he is quite shy. Zusi took classes on counter-terrorism and had a professor who was an ex-Secret Service head at the University of Maryland. He has said if he wasn't a footballer he would be "pursuing something in one of those agencies, maybe the CIA or something".

Media punditry is not as popular among famous ex-players in Ghana as it is with their European counterparts, though some are working for TV and radio, including ex-defender Joe Addo and striker Augustine Arhinful who had a long career in Europe, notably in Turkey. In the US, the matches will mainly be broadcast by ESPN with a few shown on terrestrial ABC. There will be many faces that are familiar to British viewers including Steve McManaman, Michael Ballack, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Jon Champion. Alexi Lalas is irritating and omnipresent. Efan Ekoku is worth watching for gaffes – during the last World Cup he chided the Spanish players for not singing their wordless national anthem.

Over 150,000 US fans will be travelling to Brazil – around three times the amount of the next biggest contingent, the 50,000 supporters from Australia. The Ghana Black Stars Supporters Association has well over 50,000 registered members, though travel costs may restrict their numbers in Brazil. The most popular song with the fans is Enter The Net by Shatta Wale. A few musicians have composed songs for the team though none of them has yet been officially recognised by the Ghana FA. Ed Upright & Fred Boateng Ampah

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