Before a shocking 2-1 loss to Ghana in the U17 World Cup in Amman, Jordan today’s match seemed set to follow a script written years ago, a script that ends with an easy win for the American youngsters.
After all, the Young Yanks were coming off of a 6-1 thrashing of Paraguay in the Group D opener while Ghana’s girls had suffered a 5-0 shutout at the hands of Japan in their first game.
The big names on the U.S. side had all scored against Paraguay, led by a hat trick for Civana Kuhlmann and supplemented by single strikes from her gifted running mates Frankie Tagliaferri, Kiara Pickett, and rising star Ashley Sanchez, who has already been called into the full U.S. camp for a closer look by Jill Ellis.
An early goal today from Tagliaferri seemed to indicate that the script was set to be followed but Ghana soon showed that they planned a re-write.
Instead of folding Ghana showed remarkable resolve, particularly after the halftime break as Ghana’s pressing tactics began to choke off the U.S. attack. In fact, the Ghanaian pressure was so effective that the American favorites could barely get the ball out of its own end.
There was one telling sequence in the second stanza where U.S. goalkeeper Laura Ivory and a U.S. defender exchanged several passes, hell-bent on living up to current craze to play it out of the back sure, but also unable to break the smothering Ghana press.
Ghana’s pressure was such that there was an air of the inevitable about it when Ghana’s Gifty Acheampong out jumped Ivory to head home the equalizer in the 63rd minute. The goal was a body blow and the U.S. struggled to respond, but eventually the Americans clawed their way back into the match.
Possession remained difficult for the Americans, although they began to have success on the counter and were nearly rewarded when a Sanchez blast off of the crossbar came agonizingly near crossing the goal line before trickling out of play for a U.S. corner kick.
A draw was beginning to look likely until an unfortunate, but legitimate handball call went against Pickett and was clinically converted by Ghana captain Sandra Owusu-Ansa in the 84th minute.
Ghana held on for the win and celebrated the result wildly on the field while the Americans were distraught. Neither side will have long to recover from those emotions, both are back in action on Friday.
The Americans lead Ghana in Group D standings thanks to a superior goal difference (plus 4 to minus 4) but face the bigger challenge versus Japan while Ghana should be too good for Paraguay.
The top two teams in each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals, so we will need to wait on the result of today’s Japan vs Paraguay game to know exactly what the U.S. will need from Friday’s games.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
PAR 0 2 2
USA – Frankie Tagliaferri (Civana Kuhlmann) 5th minute
GHA – Gifty Acheampong (Adizatu Mustapha) 63
GHA – Sandra Owusu-Ansah (penalty kick) 84
USA : 1-Laurel Ivory; 9-Kiara Pickett (13-Isabel Rodriguez, 85), 5-Karina Rodriguez, 4-Naomi Girma, 11-Kate Wiesner (15-Kennedy Wesley, 57); 7-Alex Spaanstra, 18-Jaelin Howell, 20-Frankie Tagliaferri (3-Sophia Smith, 56), 8-Briana Pinto, 10-Ashley Sanchez (capt.); 14-Civana Kuhlmann
Subs Not Used: 2-Jordan Canniff, 6-Emily Smith, 12-Meagan McClelland, 16-Sydney Zandi,
17-Lia Godfrey, 19-Adrienne Richardson, 21-Hillary Beall
Head Coach: B.J. Snow
GHA : 1-Kayza Massey; 4-Uwaisa Mawia, 12-Cecilia Hagan, 14-Philicity Asuako, 18-Blessing Agbomadzi; 6-Grace Asantewaa, 9-Gifty Acheampong, 17-Fuseina Mumuni; 7-Rafia Kulchirie, 10-Sandra Owusu-Ansah (capt.), 15-Adizatu Mustapha (20-Konadu Adjei, 86)
Subs Not Used: 2-Joyce Asamoah, 3-Nina Norshie, 5-Linda Amoako, 8-Grace Acheampong, 11-Mary Entoah, 13-Olivia Anokye, 16-Barikisu Issahaku, 19-Sylvian Amankwah, 21-Selina Amusilie
Head Coach: Evans Adotey
Stats Summary: USA / GHA
Shots: 11 / 24
Shots on Goal: 5 / 10
Saves: 8 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 6
Fouls: 13 / 14
Offside: 1 / 3
GHA – Cecilia Hagan (caution) 18th minute
GHA – Grace Asantewaa (caution) 42
GHA – Kayza Massey (caution) 80
GHA – Uwaisa Mawia (caution) 81
USA – Sophia Smith (caution) 90+4