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Originally published June 15, 2014 at 8:51 PM | Page modified June 15, 2014 at 10:11 PM

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U.S. vs. Ghana: Clint Dempsey ready to lead national team in World Cup opener

U.S. captain Clint Dempsey will lead the national team in its World Cup opener against Ghana looking for three critical points in a difficult group that also features Germany and Portugal.

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NATAL, Brazil — As a striker, Clint Dempsey is looking, well, forward, and not back.

What’s happened in the past is the past.

So when the United States national team steps onto the pitch at Arena das Dunas on Monday, the Americans will be concerned more about their immediate future than worrying about revenge against their World Cup nemesis, Ghana.

The African nation eliminated the U.S. from their last two competitions. The Americans need to win the match and secure three points to position themselves to reach the knockout round because they will have more imposing foes — Portugal on Sunday and Germany on June 26. Earning a tie against either European side will be a challenge.

“Ghana’s a good team,” the Seattle Sounders standout said Sunday at a news conference. “They’ve done well the past two World Cups. But at the same time, every time you come to the World Cup, it’s a fresh slate, an opportunity to prove to the rest of the world that you’re a quality side and continuing to develop the game in our home country, moving in the right direction.

“I think our preparation has been very good. We’re excited about the opportunity to play against Ghana. If we play to the best of our ability, we have the quality that we can go far in this tournament. That’s what we focus on.”

Dempsey, the U.S. captain, grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas, admiring the Brazilian style of soccer and is excited to be here for this World Cup.

“I gravitated towards the way that they played, being able to be creative, the passion of the fans had watching the World Cup and stuff like that,” Dempsey said. “I have an opportunity to play in the World Cup in the country that I looked up to as a kid. Being in that type of atmosphere and also being able to grow the game in my own country, I’m blessed to be in that position.”

This cup has also been blessed with goals, plenty of goals. Entering Sunday’s matches, there had been 28 goals scored in eight matches, the best start of a World Cup since the 1982 edition in Spain.

Whether the U.S. and Ghana will be able to continue that trend, it remains to be seen.

“It will be difficult to say what the match (on Monday) will bring,” Dempsey said. “Yes, there have been a lot of goals being scored, especially from crosses. You’ve seen a lot of teams go down and then end up coming back and winning the game, which I think in the last World Cup it happened only three or four times.”

But now the talking is over and Dempsey is ready to show the world what the U.S. is all about.

“We look forward to (Monday) and giving it everything that we can,” he said. “We’ve prepared the best we can. We’re ready for it. It’s not about talking. It’s about getting out there and showing by our actions.”

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