Jun 7, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It’s not a hidden fact, so why not talk about it?
The US squad did just that Friday, chatting about scheduling Nigeria ahead of the World Cup opener against Ghana.
With the two teams sporting very similar styles of play, the United States hopes to gain valuable information on Ghana with their friendly against Nigeria in Jacksonville today.
“Obviously they [Nigeria] are a very physical and strong team, and a little bit similar team to Ghana,” Aron Johannsson told reporters at EverBank Field.
“It’s kind of a big test tomorrow because then we see how we do against a team that’s like our World Cup opponents.”
He’s definitely not the only one who thinks that. It comes from the top.
“It’s a team that has strengths and weaknesses that we are trying to utilize and benefit from if possible,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “That gives us a little bit of an indication of how to approach Ghana and how to beat Ghana which is so crucial for us to start the World Cup with.”
Klinsmann said that they’re looking for any little bit of an edge they can get in their World Cup opener.
“We see a lot of similar things ahead of us and if you watch [Nigeria's] game with Greece, they have so much individual talent, they technically are very gifted and always very calm on the ball, but sometimes a little bit over confident and we hopefully can utilize that.”
It’s understandable the US would target this match with Ghana. They can’t achieve their goals against Ghana, but they can certainly blow them. A win would set the Stars and Stripes up to have a shot at advancing with work still to do, while dropped points could doom them.
With such importance placed on the opener, midfielder Michael Bradley echoed those sentiments.
“[Nigeria] is a physical team, they’re an athletic team, a team with guys who individually can cause you trouble,” Bradley said. “Obviously no two teams are the same but certainly there are similarities there when you talk about Ghana. So it will be a good test for us to get another 90 minutes under our belts, and…we’ll use it for what it is.”
Even the Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi admitted he knows why his country was asked to play at EverBank. “I think Nigeria plays similar football [to Ghana], and it will be a good thing for the United States, they should be able to capitalize on that.”
The first match is obviously on everyone’s mind, and to some degree the players clearly just want to get to Brazil and get into the thick of the event. But there are important steps to complete first, and one of them is getting a good look at another African team with a hard-nosed presence on the pitch.
Ghana comes later, but first it’s Nigeria.
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