Natal (Brazil) (AFP) – German-born United States defender John Brooks came off the bench to stun Ghana with a late winner in a 2-1 victory in Natal on Monday to put a huge dent in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists hopes of emulating that feat this time round.
Clint Dempsey scored the opener after just 30 seconds and Brooks headed a dramatic winner to send the USA’s German coach Jurgen Klinsmann wild with delight.
Andre Ayew equalized for Ghana eight minutes before the end. But Brooks’ first goal for his adopted country avenged defeats to the same opposition in the past two World Cups, the latter when Ghana went on to the quarter-finals.
It was only the third time in 12 matches at the World Cup finals that the Americans had managed to score more than one goal.
“The opening game is a very special game so when you score in the opening minute, it can’t get better than that,” said Klinsmann.
“We’ve worked hard for this so it’s a great feeling to get these three points. But it won’t mean something if we don’t get out of the group.”
The result left Ghana, who four years ago became only the third African side to qualify for the quarter-finals, with a lot of work to do to get to the second round with matches to come against Germany and Portugal.
Germany had earlier destroyed Portugal 4-0.
Ghana’s next meeting, against Germany on June 21 in Fortaleza, could be make or break for Kwesi Appiah’s side.
“Looking at the performance, we did not do badly. I don’t think we disgraced ourselves,” said Appiah, the first Ghanaian to coach the Black Stars at the World Cup.
“We created chances but it’s just unfortunate that we could not take them. We’ve got two more games to play, so we’re not out of it yet.”
Ghana’s minds appeared elsewhere after kicking off and they were made to pay when Dempsey deftly collected from Da Marcus Beasley as he ran down the left flank.
As Ghana’s players looked on, the U.S. captain feinted his way into the area before dribbling past defender John Boye to coolly sweep a left-footed shot past Adam Kwarasey at the keeper’s far post.
Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup with Germany as a player and coached his native country to third place in 2006, exploded with joy on the bench as the U.S. celebrated scoring the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history.
However his joy was tempered by seeing Jozy Altidore stretchered off after pulling up with an apparent hamstring injury while chasing down Michael Bradley’s punt.
Dempsey, who later fell victim to a suspected broken nose, said Altidore’s loss would hit the team, and the big Sunderland striker hard.
“I don’t know what the injury is,” said Dempsey. “My heart goes out to him because he’s been working hard in camp and looking really sharp.
“You could see the tears in his eyes. He’s a big player for us.”
Dempsey then felt the full brunt of John Boye’s shin during a mid-air challenge, the American requiring treatment before stoically played on.
He later explained: “I just have trouble breathing. I was coughing up blood a little bit. Hopefully I’ll be able to start breathing through my nose again and play in the next game.”
Ghana’s best chance of the half fell to Jordan Ayew, but the Marseille striker to mishit Christian Atsu’s square ball with the goal at his mercy.
Ghana showed improvement after the break, but Sulley Muntari fired a metre wide of Tim Howard’s upright and then Gyan, unmarked, twice sent headers wide of the target.
The African’s were given hope when Ayew finished off a fine move down the left by latching on to Gyan’s backheel inside the area to beat Howard with the outside of his left boot.
But Berlin-born Brooks, whose selection for the World Cup by Klinsmann caused considerable controversy, ended their hopes of an opening win.
He had replaced defender Matt Besler for the second half after he suffered a knock,and Klinsmann added: “It was a big moment for John Anthony Brooks coming into this game at half-time.
“He played his first World Cup game, and scored in it, so it’s quite a special day for him.”
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand via AFP