It's been 24 years since two nations have met in three consecutive World Cups, but the United States and Ghana are about to do exactly that.
Ghana has been the U.S.' nemesis since the 2006 World Cup, when they beat the Americans 2-1 and that score repeated itself when they met four years later. United States fans know this all too well. The goal by Asamoah Gyan in extra time in Rustenburg has imprinted a permanent dark mark on our subconscious. Fans cringe when they replay Oguchi Onyewu trying to refrain from contacting Razak Pimpong in the box in Nuremburg. Hopefully the United States will benefit just by not playing in a town that ends in b-u-r-g.
The big question is will the third time be the charm for USMNT?
The good news is that history is on the side of the United States. Only three other times in the history of the World Cup have two teams met three consecutive times. In fact, there has actually been two teams that met in five straight World Cups. And no team has been swept in any three consecutive matches.
The first time this happened was across the World Cups in 1954, 1958 and 1962. West Germany met Yugoslavia in the quarterfinals in each of those years. West Germany won the first two by scores of 2-0 and 1-0. The victory in 1954 was part of West Germany's march to their first Jules Rimet Trophy. In 1958 they finished fourth, but Yugoslavia finally got their revenge in 1962 with a 1-0 win on their way to a fourth place finish.
The next time a trifecta occurred was between two bitter rivals. Argentina met Brazil in 1974, 1978 and 1982. Similar to West Germany and Yugoslavia, the South American foes met each time in the second round. At this point in World Cup history, group stage winners were placed in a second group stage as opposed to a quarterfinal match. Brazil would win the 1974 match 2-1 and finish fourth overall. In 1978, Argentina earned a 0-0 draw in a tentative match on their home soil. Argentina would recover and continue on to their first World Cup title. In 1982, Brazil dominated Argentina 3-1 but neither team would escape the group as Italy beat them both on the way to their third title.
Argentina was also involved in the latest run of consecutive meetings, this time with Italy. They met five consecutive times from 1974 to 1990. Italy won the series with two wins, two draws and one loss to Argentina. Like Yugoslavia, Argentina got the last win in the biggest match, beating Italy in the 1990 semi-final on penalty kicks. Argentina went on to lose the final to Jurgen Klinsmann's West Germany powerhouse.
The United States and Ghana are about to add to this odd history of fate. Only in the World Cup can two nations with barely a connection become so intertwined on the world's biggest stage. It seems strange to think of Ghana as a rival given the USMNT may never face them again, but here come the Black Stars again.
The Ghana losses have come to symbolize that the large and powerful United States is not yet ready to win the biggest games against the biggest soccer nations. The Yanks will have their chance to change all of that. At least history is on their side.