USA's 4-0 victory in their opening Group D match at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Japan 2012 over Ghana certainly looked convincing on paper, but anyone who witnessed the opening minutes of the match at the Hiroshima Big Arch will realise that the final scoreline could have been so different.
The Black Princesses got off to the stronger start and were close to taking the lead in the fifth minute. Florence Dadson found herself clear through the middle and bearing down on goal but saw her shot blocked by a last-gasp challenge from a defender. "That was obviously a real shame – maybe the match would have had a different outcome," said Ghana's stand-out player Mercy Myles in an interview with FIFA.com. Not that she was apportioning any blame to her team-mate, saying, "we win together and we lose together".
That early chance came and went, however, and the rest of the match was virtually one-way traffic. United States ran out 4-0 winners and the African team now find themselves under real pressure as they prepare to take on Germany on Thursday, as another loss would see them out of the competition. "We feel terrible about this heavy defeat, but we're still in with a shout," said Myles.
Myles and Co face no easy task against the reigning champions, who also recorded a 4-0 opening win - over China PR - and are brimming with confidence. Is this Mission Impossible for the Ghanaians? "Certainly not," said the 20-year-old. "Everyone thinks we don't stand a chance but that's not the case. We'll give it our all right up until the final whistle, and we'll fight til we drop."
The midfielder speaks from experience. Back in 2010 she was in the squad for the previous FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup held in Germany, and in 2008 she was Ghana's captain at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, where she also had to take on Germany in the second group match.
"I remember it well," she said. "We drew the first match 1-1 against Korea DPR then we lost 3-2 to Germany." Despite winning their final match against Costa Rica, Ghana went out of the competition after the group stage.
"It may be a little bit of an advantage that I have already got some experience at World Cups," she continued. "The main thing a captain has to do though is guide the team and motivate them when things aren't going according to plan."
Focussing on their own strengths
In the shape of Myles and Dadson for Ghana and Dzsenifer Marozsan and Leonie Maier for Germany, three goalscorers from that previous match may be in the respective starting XIs on Thursday, but with so many other changes to the two squads, revenge will not be on the agenda. A far greater concern will be qualifying for the second stage, and after falling at the first hurdle in 2008 and 2010, Myles will be looking to make it through to the quarter-finals of a FIFA women's tournament for the first time.
"Even if people aren't expecting it, we believe that we can make it through," she said as the interview concluded. "We have to believe in our own strengths and play the way our coach wants us to tactically. We saw Germany when they played China PR and they didn't seem to have many weaknesses, but we still have a chance. Everything is possible in football – it always is. And we want to prove that against Germany. We're ready."