x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Klinsmann’s faith in debutant Brooks helps break the Ghana curse

Bearing in mind USA were arguably handed the worst World Cup draw and have taken a youthful team to gain experience, there is a reason for much celebration.

John Brooks of the USA, shields the ball from Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
John Brooks of the USA, shields the ball from Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

NATAL // Jurgen Klinsmann will have rested a little easier after watching his United States side defeat Ghana, their World Cup nemeses. The curse is broken, three somewhat unexpected points are in the bag and the winning goal came from a player many of Klinsmann’s critics believe should never have even been in Brazil.

John Anthony Brooks, a 21 year-old German-born defender, scored an 86th minute header to secure a vital victory for the USA. It essentially means if they can get a point against Portugal and avoid heavy defeat to Germany, they have every chance of progressing to the knock-out stages for the third time in four tournaments. Bearing in mind they were arguably handed the worst draw and have taken a youthful team to gain experience and that is a reason for much celebration.

It is also a reason to accept Klinsmann, the German coach with the two-Cup contract, does indeed know what he is doing. His decision to leave Landon Donovan, the United States all-time leading goalscorer, at home this summer was lambasted by many as he opted to select young players with potential, many of who were born outside the USA. Brooks, born in Berlin and without a single full international cap to his name, was undoubtedly one of these.

These were players expected to simply come long for the ride and when it became known Klinsmann had conceded to the New York Times that winning the World Cup in Brazil was simply unrealistic, the criticism grew. The United States is not a country that competes merely to make up numbers. They play to win, only.

In South Africa four years ago, against Algeria and desperately needing a goal to progress, there was a certain inevitability that it would arrive — and it did. Such mental strength is invaluable and it was evident again in Natal on Monday night. Although the goal was this time more of a surprise than an inevitability, it was not difficult to fathom. Klinsmann has built a team around the spirit rather than a spirit around the team. But he is also building the foundations of a legacy: Only England have selected more players under the age of 21 than the USA.

Understandably, the USA produced by no means a perfect performance — in fact, it was probably one of their worst at a World Cup for eight years. Yet they delivered the goods when it counted and that is what is most important. With success against Ghana and one of his young foreign-based players proving the hero, Klinsmann is already on track to both appease his critics and prove himself right. He is already on track to achieve a respectable World Cup performance with young players who will be more experienced in 2018, when his legacy is due to come to fruition.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae