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Next up for the U.S.: Ghana

Dirty Tackle

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As that amazing Nike ad says, Landon Donovan wrote the future with his 91st minute match-winning goal against Algeria to send the U.S. through in the biggest game in American soccer history. And that future starts with a round of 16 knockout game against the only side from the host continent to advance to the next round: Ghana. Up against a whole continent -- will that be as tough or tougher to overcome than mistake prone referees? We'll find out.

The matchup provides some interesting talking points for eager U.S. fans looking ahead to Saturday's clash. Ghana were the last team the Americans saw on the pitch in their horrid 2006 World Cup campaign in Germany, watching their hopes vanish with a weak penalty call and a collapsing Claudio Reyna helping advance the damage on the way to a 2-1 loss that had us all waiting four long years for Wednesday's events. A certain measure of revenge will be on the Americans' minds, and they'd be hard pressed to go out to the Ghanaians in as crippling a fashion as four years ago. It's do or die once again for the Yanks and the Black Stars.

[Photos: See more of the U.S.'s next opponent, Ghana]

In terms of the present, the U.S. will head into the match with the massive confidence-boosting trump card of that Landon Donovan extra time winner that sent them through in their back pocket, something most nations certainly won't possess and would probably sell their fitness coach's left arm for. Ghana have seemingly limped into the last 16, having not won since the first game of the tournament after being held by a 10-man Australia in the second and falling to group winners Germany 1-0 in the third. Ghana have also yet to score from the run of play in the entire tournament, finding their two goals off penalty kicks from star attacker Asamoah Gyan in each of their first two games. Also, if you put any stock in FIFA's wacky rankings, the U.S. would be considered the favorite heading in as the 14th ranked nation in the world and Ghana being the 32nd. But, if any of that actually mattered, maybe they wouldn't be playing that game on Saturday.

Yet, they are. And when the Americans take the pitch, pundits will be sure to play up that "them against an entire continent in Africa's first time hosting the World Cup" angle. Just another monumental challenge thrown their way. Will they respond again?

Photo: Getty Images

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