- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

1:04 p.m.

NUREMBERG, Germany — There was no glory for the United States at this year’s World Cup, only frustration and failure.

The Americans were eliminated in the first round, losing to Ghana 2-1 today in a game they had to win to advance to the tournament’s knockout phase.

With thousands of red, white and blue-clad fans cheering them on in Franken-Stadion, the Americans fell flat against a Black Stars team that was stronger and faster. Surprising Ghana advanced along with Italy from Group E.

It was a bitter ending for the United States, which carried high hopes — and a No. 5 world ranking from FIFA — onto soccer’s biggest stage. Four years ago, the Americans made the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

Haminu Draman put the Africans ahead in the 22nd minute, breaking in alone on goalkeeper Kasey Keller after colliding with Claudio Reyna, who crumpled to the ground in pain.

The United States, which has never won a World Cup game in which it trailed, tied it when Clint Dempsey scored in the 43rd minute with a smashing 10-yard shot off a perfect feed from DaMarcus Beasley. But Ghana captain Stephen Appiah converted a penalty kick in the second minute of first-half injury time after American defender Oguchi Onyewu was called for a foul in the penalty area.

In order to advance, the Americans needed a victory and some help. They got the needed assistance when Italy defeated the Czech Republic 2-0 in a game played simultaneously in Hamburg. But the United States (0-2-1) didn’t come through and finished the tournament with one point — its first in a World Cup played in Europe, but not enough to escape the basement in Group E.

Italy (2-0-1) won the group with seven points and Ghana (2-1), making its first World Cup appearance, advanced with six points.

Four years ago, the Americans became heroes with their best showing since 1930. But this time, in what probably marked the final World Cup appearances of Reyna, Brian McBride and perhaps Keller, they reverted to their form of 1998 in France, when they finished last overall.

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