With Win Over Ghana, U.S. Is Off On The Right Foot In Brazil

On Monday night, the U.S. soccer team accomplished a feat it failed to achieve in the past two World Cups: beat Ghana. With a 2-1 victory, the Americans position themselves well for the games to come.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We go now to the World Cup in Brazil where tonight this was the sound of raw American jubilation.

(CHEERING)

BLOCK: The U.S. beat Ghana 2 to 1 in a game that got off to a dramatic start with the U.S. scoring in the very first minute. But the Ghanaians came back strong, evened it up late in the second half, only for the U.S. to score the winning goal with just a few minutes left to play. NPR's Russell Lewis is at the stadium in the city of Natal. And, Russell, I can only imagine the fervor at that stadium there after this nailbiter of a match.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Oh, absolutely. It was a really exciting match and as you say, it got off to such an amazing start with Clint Dempsey scoring a goal right in the first minute of the game, which really sort of set the tone. And I would say, the stadium holds 40,000 people, at least half of the stadium were Americans or those rooting for the Americans. The stadium just erupted. And even now, the game did - just got out just a minute ago, you can hear the people in the background screaming and chanting USA, USA. And even now in the background you can hear them singing just with smiles on their faces and high-fiving. It really is a very dramatic scene. And for many Americans, for hardcore American soccer fans, this win tonight is redemption.

BLOCK: Russell, talk a little bit about the dramatic ending of this game.

LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, it really was dramatic. Ghana tied it up in the 82nd minute, just about eight minutes left in the game. Really sort of - you could feel the Americans get deflated at that point and feeling, oh, no, they thought that they had the victory in their hands and then it's just tied. But then the American squad really began to turn it around and work much better as a squad. And then with just a couple of minutes left, a header into the goal by the American John Brooks. It was an amazing goal and the crowd just erupted. It was a really incredible, incredible sight to be in the stadium when that happened.

BLOCK: John Brooks, 21 years old and a substitute coming off the bench. There was, Russell, an alarming injury, though, to one of team USA's veteran players early in the game - Jozy Altidore.

LEWIS: Yes, went down in the first half with some sort of hamstring injury. It was not good. You knew that when he went down it was not going to be a very good injury. He was carted off and then taken to the hospital for exams. And we'll just have to see what his status is for the next game.

BLOCK: Russell, the U.S. is playing in what's called the group of death and there was another big game in that group earlier today. Germany ended up defeating Portugal 4 to nothing. And the thinking is that that abysmal performance by Portugal really helps the United States in this group, of course coupled with that win tonight.

LEWIS: Yes, absolutely. In fact, Portugal is who the United States plays next. Portugal did not look good today, in fact they lost on of their key players today - Pepe - who got a red card and will not be available for the game against the United States, which is good news for the United States. You know, the group of death that the United States is playing in, they also have to play Germany. They've got Portugal coming up. It will not be easy, but the fact the United States has gotten a victory tonight against Ghana and the fact that Portugal did not look particularly good in their game today against Germany is a good sign for the United States. But we'll just have to see how it plays out.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Russell Lewis among the very loud celebratory U.S. fans at the stadium in Natal, Brazil. Again, the result, the U.S. beat Ghana 2 to 1. Russell, thanks so much.

LEWIS: You're welcome.

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