NATAL, Brazil (AP) — Clint Dempsey scored in the first minute and rookie substitute John Brooks scored a late game winner as the U.S. defeated Ghana 2-1 Monday in the World Cup opener for both.
The victory gave the Americans some revenge against the tiny West African county that knocked them out of the last two World Cups and put the U.S. and Germany on top of the Group G, with Ghana and Portugal at the bottom.
Dempsey’s goal came on a low shot just a half-minute into the match. Ghana dominated much the rest of the game, and Andre Ayew leveled in the 82nd minute.
Just four minutes later, Brooks — a 21-year-old defender who came on at halftime because Matt Besler was injured — scored off a corner from Graham Zusi. It was the first time an American sub had ever scored in the World Cup.
“I said it to the bench minutes before, ‘We’re going to get some chances still,'” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “So we are still in the game after the equalizer, we just need to kind of push and push and grind it out. That’s what they did. Here comes a set piece we trained over and over and over that stuff. And he puts it in, so well deserved.”
Dempsey’s goal made him the first U.S. player to score in three different World Cups and was the fastest ever scored by an American in the tournament.
Both goals were surprising. Dempsey’s showed the kind of technical flair seldom seen from a squad that typically scores through set pieces. Brooks’ game winner came after a long stretch in which the Americans were desperately trying to survive waves of attacks from Ghana.
DaMarcus Beasley, who became the first American to play in four World Cups, started the buildup to Dempsey’s goal with a pass to Jermaine Jones, who fed it to Dempsey inside the penalty area.
With a nifty move to split defenders John Boye and Sulley Muntari, Dempsey sent the left-footed shot past goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, where the ball bounced off the post and in.
Already ahead after the game had barely started, the Americans looked well on their way to erasing eight years of frustration caused by Ghana.
The Black Stars regrouped at halftime, and the U.S. looked punchless on the attack after losing striker Jozy Altidore to an apparent hamstring injury in the 21st minute.
Ghana applied relentless pressure on U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard and finally drew even when captain Asamoah Gyan flicked a backheel pass to Ayew, who used the outside of his left foot for a powerful shot.
Ghana was still pressing when Brooks, 6-foot-3, soared over defenders to get his head on the ball. Brooks, who plays for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga, appeared shocked to have scored, raising his hands to his head before falling to the ground to be mobbed by his teammates.
“What I can say is it was a very tough game,” Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said. “Playing at this level any little mistake can cost you dearly. We didn’t deserve to get the first goal against us.”