USA became the first team to enter the round of 16 riding on substitute Ayo Akinola's 75th-minute strike for a 1-0 victory over Ghana at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Delhi on Monday.
Coach John Hackworth's 63rd-minute substitution proved to be a masterstroke as the 17-year-old forward found the back of the net off a Christopher Goslin pass to put his team in the front. Up against a dangerous side that has won the tournament twice, the Americans then sat deep to counter Ghana's quick counter attacks.
The Detroit-born Akinola, who was also eligible to play for Canada and Nigeria, could have had another goal to his name, but his shot went over. His counterpart at the other end of the field, Justin Graces, was also impressive.
In a battle for the top spot in the group, both Ghana and USA showed enterprise and even though the Americans dominated possession, the Africans looked dangerous with their speed and had eight attempts on target to their opponents' six in the first half.
First up though was Aminu Mohammed, who found himself inside the box in the early minutes of the game, but could not get the better of three USA defenders surrounding him. Sadiq Ibrahim's cross thereafter from the right hit the bar and went out.
Ghana captain Eric Ayiah was then put through a one-on-one situation with Justin Garces. He beat the USA goalkeeper but fell before he could finish. Later on, Sadiq fired one from a close range but his shot was brilliantly saved by Garces. USA captain Josh Sargent was then denied from a very close range by Danlad Ibrahim's brilliant work under the bar. There was another opportunity when USA could have taken the lead up but Blaine Ferri's attempt off a Sargent pass went wide.
USA relied on keeping possession to counter Ghana's speed and in the contest between the two physically strong sides, midfielder Goslin was shown a yellow card for a harsh tackle on Isaac Gyamfi. Eventually, it was his assist that turned out to be the decisive one.