The USA's John Brooks (pictured) celebrates after scoring against Ghana during their FIFA World Cup match at the Estadio das Dunas on June 16, 2014 in Natal, Brazil. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
NATAL, Brazil -- The United States exorcised ghosts of World Cups past by dramatically defeating Ghana 2-1 in the Brazil 2014 opener for each on Monday at the Estadio das Dunas.
Center-back John Brooks headed home a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 86th minute to break a 1-1 tie and give the Americans a win over the team that eliminated them from the last two editions of the FIFA event.
Earlier, in the other Group G match, Germany posted a 4-0 win over Portugal, the USA’s next opponent.
Only 29 seconds after kickoff, Clint Dempsey gave the large and loud contingent of American fans something to cheer about.
After a throw-in exchange with Dempsey, left-back DaMarcus Beasley completed a pass along the sideline to Jermaine Jones, who one-touched the ball to a racing Dempsey positioned on the inside left. The Seattle Sounders forward faked defender John Boye, found room in the penalty area and struck a left-footer from seven-yards out that bounded off the far right post before hitting the back of the net.
With that goal, Dempsey became the first American to score in three consecutive World Cups, including a second time against the Ghanians.
Andre Ayew equalized for Ghana in the 82nd minute, collecting an Asamoah Gyan back-heel in the left side of the box and firing past goalkeeper Tim Howard with the outside of his left foot at the left post.
Four minutes later, however, a pair of second-half subs teamed to boost the Americans into the lead as Zusi sent a corner into the middle of the box and Brooks was to bounce it past goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.
Disaster struck the USA in the 20th minute, when forward Jozy Altidore fell to the grass in agony, clutching his hamstring after running down the left wing to receive a ball. He was replaced by Aron Johannsson three minutes later.
The Africans had their first legitimate scoring opportunity in the 32nd minute, but Gyan’s lashed effort was punched away with both hands by Howard.
A minute later, the U.S. and Klinsmann got another scare as Boye struck Dempsey in the face with a high kick. No card was given, although Dempsey did require treatment on the sideline.
At halftime, USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann brought on the 21-year-old Brooks for center back Matt Besler, who felt tightness in his right hamstring.
A relentless Ghana continued to attack, shooting wide on two occasions within a minute. First, Sulley Muntari sent a long-range blast wide left in the 55th minute, before Gyan got free for a six-yard header that sailed over the crossbar.
The U.S. returns to action on June 22 against the Portguese in Manaus.
NOTES: Beasley became the first American to appear in four World Cups … Brooks became the first U.S. substitute to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup … Dempsey’s goal was the quickest by an America in World Cup history and fifth fastest overall.